Computers take strain out of science

10th March 2000 at 00:00
CLASSROOM experiments, as every teacher knows, are not an exact science and collecting data manually can be time-consuming and inaccurate.

But an encouraging glimpse of the future was provided at a conference in London this week, attended by education minister Michael Wills who said computers could give pupils control of their learning.

"We must make sure every child is fully conversant with this essential grammar of modern life," he added.

Secondary teachers who attended the "Good practice in the use of ICT in schools" conference agreed one of the key benefits of computers was the way they speeded up teaching.

John Harris, head of geography at Radley College, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, built a geography website which includes links to live satellite images and weather charts.

Each spring his school links up with others around the world to observe the weather and build a global meteorological database. The projectis open to any school with an Internet link.

Iain Ross, a science teacher at Benton Park school, Leeds, explained how probes connected to a PC could be used to measure the changing temperatures of chemicals in the laboratory, saving pupils from manually recording the data.

He said: "This means you get an extra 20 minutes to discuss the experiment and to get the children to predict what they think the results may be, so you are actually adding to the lesson content."

Children at The Brooksbank School in Elland, Yorkshire, monitored the traffic outside their school, in a 30mph limit, to find out how many motorists were speeding.

Dave Nixon, head of science, said: "They quickly realised the computer will do all the number-crunching for them.

"We were able to get into the real science by looking at stopping distances together with the raw data to work out the level of risk to people crossing the road."

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