In the beginning, as chemistry and physics were making software, somehow biology got left out. Here is a subject that is big on diagrams, rich in ideas to model, and lots of iffy experiments to explain. If that is the wonder, it is some treat to report the arrival of a batch of titles this year. Cells (pound;60) is one of four from Sunflower Learning offering loads of micrographs to show or put side by side to compare. Clever touches include adding labels and being able to switch between sharp diagram and fuzzy picture. Another, Osmosis offers animation of what happens in a potato besides seeing osmosis at work in the cell. As well as visuals you have controls to simulate the effect of changing concentrations which is a nice way to follow up a not-too-exciting class experiment. Other titles include Enzymes - a simulated experiment - and Circulation with the animation that this topic particularly needs. Given that Sunflower Learning's chemistry pack is in the shortlist for a BETT Award, there's hope for some good biology tools in the year ahead.
Past BETT Award winners Fable Multimedia has Interactive Physics 2004 (pound;125), a new edition with improved interface and graphing to allow you to build visual models with awesome detail. New and unique is an incredible feature called "tactile feedback". Using widely available feedback mice and game joysticks, you can actually feel forces, motion and collisions in the models you build. That's one to see as is Physics-online.com (pound;149), a compendium of 600 of the internet's best sites, video lectures and interactive "java applets" (teaching tools).
Though not at BETT (but at the concurrent ASE meeting in Reading) Newbyte has a chemistry experiment simulation called Electrochemical Cells (pound;125). Detailed enough for advanced level it shows electrodes eroding and metals depositing just like the real thing. More advanced level science can be found in New Media's Multimedia Science School 16-18 Edition at pound;1,799 for the set and thus needing a look.
And in these days of highly monitored courses, publisher Heinemann has a set of assessment tools called Interactive Assessment for Learning (pound;249.99) to go with Catalyst (pound;149.99), its key stage 3 science course. This gives one vision of the future of assessment but there's still room for the middle road. For instance, Trumptech offers QuickAssess (pound;80) which lets you create tests and exams using a database of material. Beside this you can compare the stalwart Exampro (pound;60) from Doublestruck which truly puts an end to cut and stick exams.
Primary schools will also find some goodies this year. 4Learning has a lovely set of primary discs offering wall-to-wall movie clips. Covering topics such as Forces, Habitats and Earth amp; Beyond, six discs (pound;35 each) show what a TV company must do best.
A popular way to teach classification keys is through the use of tree database programs. Kudlian Soft's Ask Oscar (pound;35) is another BETT Award nominee with its "in-place editing" - the easiest way to add information just by clicking and typing. It is worth comparing with another innovative database called Flexitree 2 (pound;32) from Flexible Software.
This comes with the bonus of being able to save your database as a set of illustrated "web pages".
Juniors, an online service (pound;500 pa) for school and home this year extends its remit to cover science. The Juniors' Science Module is a large bank of online tutorials and activities that also logs pupils' progress. It is rich in animation, very upbeat and an interesting back up resource. More teacher support comes from Virtual Image which has Science Worksheets (pound;90) - a set of key stage 2 CDs containing on-screen tests, sequencing and labelling exercises. And for the interactive whiteboard see RM, which has the very clever Easiteach Studio (which you can buy with the science plug-in for pound;279). Finally, as even the best resources merit time to learn and take on, see training provider The IT Learning Exchange.
Though the software drought in biology starts to recede, it is but one of several areas with a shallow pool of resources. We are still a long way from whole curriculum solutions that fill in the gaps though that is something coming this way.
If you only look at three things...
Multimedia Science Library includes 11 titles, each costing pound;60.
Sunflower Learning Stand Q34 Tel: 020 8398 6800 www.sunflowerlearning.com
Interactive Physics 2004 (pound;125) Fable Multimedia M64 Tel: 0870 701 0012 www.fable.co.uk
Ask Oscar (pound;35) tree database Kudlian Soft M100 Tel 01926 842544 www.kudlian.net @Bett details head = Other contactsI 2simple Software F76 Tel: 020 8203 1781 www.2simplesoftware.com
4Learning D42 Tel: 020 7306 5545 www.channel4.comtvromsamples
Actis Z75 Tel: 0115 944 8300 www.actis.co.uk
AQAExampro G38 Tel: 0870 442 2982 Crocodile Clips E82 Tel 0131 225 1511 www.crocodileclips.com
Flexible Software SW100 Tel: 01865 391148 www.flexible.co.uk stand Heinemann PZ35 Tel: 01865 888080 The IT Learning Exchange C54 Tel: 020 7749 3777 www.title.londonmet.ac.uk
Juniors M85 Tel 020 8538 1200 www.juniors.net
New Media L19 Tel: 0870 444 1232 www.new-media.co.uk
Newbytes Tel: 020 4942 6733 www.newbyte.com
RM D50E50 Tel: 08709 086969 www.rm.com
Trumptech V10 Tel 020 8224 1977 www.trumptech.co.uk
Virtual Image SW91 Tel: 0161 480 1915 www.virtualimage.co.uk