Aids to buoyancy

5th January 1996 at 00:00
Are you feeling all at sea with the multimedia revolution? Simon Womack considers what's on offer for humanities

If you want a chance to surf the Net, BETT could help show you what potential the Internet offers the humanities. But before you risk feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of what is on offer, it is worth spending some time attending one or two of the seminars which will be looking at the implications for the management of learning and the possible impact of using the Internet in humanities.

There are seminars on Thursday January 11, which focus on geography and the Internet. On the Friday, Chris Durbin and Shelagh Scarborough will be exploring directly the issues of investigative learning in history using the Internet, the value of the Net for history teaching and the problem of information overload.

Apart from the Internet as a source of information for teachers and pupils, BETT will reflect once again the burgeoning range of CD-Roms for use in history and geography classrooms. There are several new CD-Roms which will be launched or on display, and a number of new titles within existing series.

The PictureBase series from AVP will include a new CD-Rom on English Architecture, exploring the development of both secular and religious architecture from Saxon churches and Norman castles to the present day.

Also in the series will be quite a number of history titles which will be new to BETT 96, including: Britain 1750-1900, The First World War and its Consequences, The Era of the Second World War, Britain since 1930 and Famous Faces from History.

Those who already have the PictureBase materials will recognise the format of text, graphics, etc that are accessed via the PictureBase program. This application allows keyword searching, together with the setting up and storage of user trails, and the export of text and illustrations.

From Anglia Multimedia, those stalwarts in the development of humanities materials, comes a new CD-Rom to be launched at the exhibition, The Romans, and one CD-Rom which most teachers will see for the first time at BETT 96, Nelson and His Navy.

The Romans is aimed at pupils in key stage 2 and is set in a Romano-British town circa 100 AD. Pupils will be able to walk down the streets of Venta Icenorum, based on the real settlement outside Norwich, and meet people who can tell them about life and customs in a provincial Romano-British town.

Nelson and His Navy has been developed in conjunction with the National Maritime Museum and has utilised the construction of a 3D model of HMS Victory to create fly-over animations and walks around the ship. This same technology was used to create Venta Icenorum in The Romans CD-Rom. Apart from the animations and walks there is a database compiled from muster rolls of the ships at Trafalgar, as well as histories and biographies of Nelson and his contemporaries.

New to BETT will be the second part of Yorkshire International Thomson Multimedia series of CDs on the Second World War, World War II Sources and Analysis. This CD will focus on case studies, sources and themes related to significant events during the war. The studies include the North African Campaign, Invasion of Italy, Pearl Harbour and Iwo Jima, as well as events at home like the Blitz, Women at War and GIs in Britain.

One of the particular successes of information technology has been in expanding the range of materials that give students access to features and places around the world. There are a number of CD-Roms which have looked at learning about places and understanding physical environments.

If you are interested in using IT and particularly CD-Roms in illustrating the processes of physical geography and seeing landforms throughout the world, then The Geodome Physical Geography, a new CD-Rom from the BBC and Attica Cybernetics, should be well worth looking at. The concept is of the disc as a geography museum within which rooms can be visited to find out about river flooding, coastal erosion, volcanic hazards and earthquakes, richly illustrated with examples from around the world. Also worth seeing should be Discovering Distant Places, a new CD-Rom from the Advisory Unit. Combining illustrations, data and 200 Bartholomew maps, this is designed for pupils aged 11 to 16 to explore.

Economies, development, agriculture and commodities are some areas on which information will be included together with regional statistics and case studies on St Lucia, the high Andes of Peru, rural Tanzania, Japan and the Sahara.

From the Ordnance Survey comes a stable-mate to the successful Discover York CD-Rom, Discover London. As with the previous CD-Rom, Discover London is a combination of Ordnance Survey maps and aerial photographs designed to present large amounts of data on the City of London and surrounding areas for investigation. It also includes some additional features like a digital terrain model of the London Basin.

Before leaving CD-Roms on places and physical features, it could be worth looking at Life in a Tanzanian Village, written by Leeds Development Education Centre and displayed on the Creative Curriculum Software stand. Also keep an eye on what Multimedia Solutions is developing on European Geography, with titles on weather, settlement ecosystems and economic activities.

In the world of geographic information systems, the Advisory Unit will be launching Aegis 2 at BETT. The new software includes a number of features which are a natural development of the original Aegis system, like the ability to import Land-Line Ordnance Survey maps. It will also include a wide range of world and regional maps which can be used to display fixed point and area data.

Also updating products is Minerva Software who will be showing the digital terrain-mapping feature of Map Importer and the Risc OS format Ancestry II.

Sherston Software will be adding to its successful Venture series by launching Arcventure IV on Anglo Saxons. It is aimed at key stage 2 pupils and takes them on an archaeological dig.

Finally, having surfed the Net till your virtual plastic carrier bag has inevitably split, remember it's often not the purchase of the comprehensive measurement and control kit, the interactive CD-Rom or the interface to the Internet which will make the most difference to pupils learning: the crucial thing is how it's used. With this in mind, try and find enough time to visit the National Council for Educational Technology stand and look at the recent publication, Using IT to Enhance Geography. This is the result of the successful collaboration between the Geographical Association and the NCET.

* Advisory Unit - stand 720. Anglia Multimedia - stand 357. AVP - stand 355. BBC - stand C1. Creative Curriculum Software - stand 420. Minerva Software - stand 426. Multimedia Solutions - stand 340. NCET - stand 560. Ordnance Survey - stand 570. Sherston Software - stand 260. YITM - stand 402

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