A clear route to revision
When Euan Mackenzie says that "exam revision is not something students take to with relish", he hits the nail on the head. It is, most often, a chore.
The challenge, then, for Mr Mackenzie, the chief executive officer of 3MRT, and his Dundee-based software company to make revision fun, accessible and even appealing is not an easy one. Even with characters such as Russell the anteater, who is allergic to ants, Milo the one-armed monkey, who has a talent for plate spinning, and Goldie the shubunkin (goldfish) with a vicious streak to liven it up, it seems like an impossible task.
However, an online resource launched last week by educational publisher Leckie amp; Leckie in conjunction with 3MRT (Multimedia Mind Map Review Technology) aims to do just that. Revision Mind Maps, using Tony Buzan's mind mapping strategies, have been designed for Standard grade, Intermediate and Higher students. and are based on Leckie amp; Leckie's own revision guides.
The maps, each costing pound;3.99 for a year's subscription, recognise that a range of revision tools is needed to suit different learning styles.
The software allows students to produce their own revision schedules and take part in self-testing procedures. It even sends messages to remind them when to revise.
There are currently 25 ready-made Revision Mind Maps covering 15 subjects at different levels, with more in the pipeline.
Students can choose from five funky characters - Ali, Stacey, Zo , Shaz and Matt - to lead them around the website and, with the fresh and modern design, they make it quite appealing. (The aforementioned animals stay in the lockers.) Sarah Mitchell, senior publisher for Leckie amp; Leckie, says: "This project is an educational first in the UK. Our aim is to ensure each student performs to the best of his or her ability. Students take control whether in terms of planning their revision schedules, revising ready-made Mind Maps or self-testing on a chosen course topic.
"The cool characters and themes used throughout make every stage of the mind mapping process achievable. We think it will change the way students revise for their exams."
Mr Mackenzie says: "When you are revising it is about understanding key facts and there is no easy way to do this.
"Simply put, this site will help students to pass exams.
"It is very interactive and it takes key facts from revision guides and courses. We are providing them with a Mind Map which they can then print out and personalise or they can edit it online."
Twelve months ago the original design for the website was shown to students at Webster's High in Kirriemuir, Angus. Since then they have been using the software as part of a pilot funded by Scottish Enterprise.
"The first design was a bit 'geeky boy' and the students were very frank in their feedback," says Mr Mackenzie. "We are grateful to them for that."
Mrs M.C. McInally, the school's acting depute headteacher, says the new design has been well received.
"It recognises that different students have different learning styles," she says. "We use it as part of our programme for raising levels of attainment; we have revision classes as well. It reinforces what they learn in the classroom.
"It's so appealing and the beauty is that they can use it at home as well.
Not everyone has a computer at home, but students can book to use a computer here.
"I'm very pleased the local authority went with the initiative," she adds.
"The pupils benefit. It's great to have a resource specifically designed for Scottish education."
The students agree that it is a valuable aid.
"It's really good," says S4 pupil Lisa Ryder. "It's clear, everyone can use it and people get different things out of it. It's more exciting than a book. It is quite cool."
Classmate Martin Perry says: "It's really helpful. There are lots of course notes and self-testing is better than asking your mum or dad as they might not know the answers. I'm not very organised so the study plan will help me.
"It's definitely worth paying to have it in schools . Even if it helps one person to get better results, it is worth it."