Belief in practice

29th June 2001 at 01:00
CHRISTIANS: the life of a local church. By David Sutton Jones pound;60. Pack includes CD-Roms, worksheets, colour postcards and site licence. pound;95 React Multimedia. Tel: 0114 268 0365. ASPECTS OF RELIGION NEW EDITION. Granada Learning pound;49. Tel: 020 7316 4450.

TOWARDS A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF ISLAM. Resource pack pound;59.99. IQRA Trust. Tel: 020 8799 4455

ICT lends itself to learning about religion and particularly to promoting independent research. Christians: the Life of a Local Church is based on extensive research carried out by David Sutton Jones into the spiritual and liturgical life of the local parish church of St Catherine of Sienna, in Sheffield.

The physical experience of a real church visit cannot be evoked fully in the classroom, but this intricate and detailed resource would provide an excellent way to prepare students or review their learning afterwards. Weekday visits by school parties often miss the people who embody the church. A CD-Rom has the potential to open up the inner workings of a believer's head and heart in a way that still ensures an appropriate distance between the subject and the learner. The step-by-step presentation of one Christian's sacramental confession is one unusual and fascinating example of such insight.

Non-Christian pupils at key stage 3 may be overwhelmed by the detail of the information on this CD-Rom. It is probably better suited to students preparing GCSE Religious Studies answers or even confirmation candidates in church groups, for whom this could be an extremely helpful starting point for discussion.

As a means of engaging with real people of faith rather than abstract creeds or tenets, this resource has plenty of potential. It is accompanied by clearly presented photocopiable worksheets and colour postcards.

The new edition of the Aspects of Religion CD-Rom is a well-presented reference resource. My students were immediately attracted to contemporary issues, although they found the language difficult. However, they were motivated to ask questions.

Although Aspects of Religion is comprehensive in its coverage of different religions and provides an excellent starting point for student project work we felt frustrated by the lack of depth. If revised again, hypertext links to relevant websites could be included (although these addresses can go out of date very quickly) or references to other resources so that interested students could extend their research.

I was a little concerned about the accuracy of some of the answers, particularly with respect to ethical issues, and found it necessary to qualify what the students were reading from the screen. This is good practice in encouraging critical reading, but unhelpful in improving understanding between faith communities.

The IQRA Trust Islamic resource pack Towards a Better Understanding of Islam is an invaluable collection of existing material published by this respected organisation. My students recognised many of the leaflets from their mosque. We particularly enjoyed three editions of the Young Believers magazine, currently only in the primary pack, but of interest to nine to 14-year-olds. One edition treated Muslim teaching on human responsibility for the environment, including animals, in a way reminiscent of children's television news at its best. The tasks, which test little more than recall of factual information, could have been made more interesting.

The pack includes five beautiful model kits of key Islamic structures, including the Central London Mosque and the Ka'aba. These are very impressive, though not exactly "easy to assemble".

Sensitive and constructive advice is included for teachers, headteachers and governors of schools attended by Muslim pupils. I will also use a number of the Islam and Science leaflets with my religious ethics students at ASA2-level.

Janet Orchard is head of RE at Central Foundation Girls' School, east London

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