Bringing life and colour to grey areas

14th January 2005 at 00:00
Claire Johnson praises a resource that makes an often poorly treated subject entertaining

Huge admiration is due to the teachers who created, the well established, entertaining and recently redesigned revision website. Creatorauthor David Phillips, designerprogrammer Stuart Motley and illustratoranimator Adam Kirkton have succeeded in bringing colour, animation and humour to revision topics in ICT which are often very poorly treated.

The site is divided into six sections and is written for the Edexcel specification. However, it also covers the syllabus requirements of most exam boards. The breadth of content makes it ideal for all students who need support in the preparation of coursework and in revising for exams.

The site is highly regarded by practising ICT teachers, particularly for the downloadable exercises and the recently published CD-Rom, which offer rare opportunities for independent learning.

Project guides

Although the level of detail here will put off students who don't like reading, the language is accessible and the style upbeat and reassuring. The guides present step-by-step outlines of the written work needed to accompany practical tasks in spreadsheets, databases, web design, presentations and word-processing.

General tips

This section describes the systems and the steps students need to follow in analysing, designing, implementing and evaluating a GCSE project.

The theory section includes printable notes for key revision topics covering hardware (input devices, OCR, OMR, MICR, basic computer processes, bits, bytes and ASCII, control technology, data-logging, data storage, and network topologies).

The software theory covers some of the trickier aspects of spreadsheets (data validation, "IF" statements, spinners), relational databases and mail merge; and a general theory section introduces computer laws, data capture, data information and knowledge, health and safety, network security, teleworking, systems flowcharting and the internet.

The downloadable exercises are ideal for supported self-study or extension work. On offer are four DTPWP exercises of different levels of difficulty, a unit on web design, nine crosswords, three database activities, three spreadsheet activities, and a PowerPoint demo on Excel techniques (the basics, spinners, conditional formatting, data validation). But the real star is the CD, which offers more than three hours of tutorials.

Forty-two Camtasia screen capture videos show students how to tackle databases, spreadsheets, word processing, presentations and web design. All videos are narrated by David Phillips, who explains how to master key techniques in a relaxed and encouraging manner.

Since its launch, the CD has received much acclaim and members of the site team are so confident that teachers will find it a useful classroom teaching aid (and they will) that they offer free, downloadable trial videos and a 14-day money back guarantee. The CD is pound;50 for a site licence and pound;10 for a single student licence.

Also worth having a look at are Adam Kirkton's A1 size, colour posters which enliven dull topics such as the Data Protection Act, the Data Misuse Act, the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act and Health and Safety (pound;3 per poster + pound;2 pp).

A currently unavailable, but hopefully to be resurrected, quiz league motivates students to test their knowledge of ICT theory against other players.

Randomly generated quiz questions ensure that participants revise important topics and get feedback and a national ranking.

The final section - Adam's animations - contains Flash movies which illustrate key concepts behind control technology, datalogging, networks and how emails work. Look out for future additions.


Claire Johnson is head of ICT at The Westgate School, Winchester, Hampshire

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