Coping with the pressure

22nd November 1996 at 00:00
THE ADVENTURES OF PROFESSOR SOLVADORE: AIR AND WATER CD-Rom for Multimedia PC, Pounds 24.99. SCOPS Software, Unit 1, Abbey Business Park, Monks Walk, Farnham, Surrey GU9 8HT. Tel: 01252 722223. Age range: 7+

How do I get this egg into this bottle? It's a problem because the egg seems to be just a little too big. It looks as though you'd need to drill a hole in the side or use a hammer.

Trying to work out problems in science is a familiar classroom activity. To find a solution, pupils need to know the underlying concept connected to the problem. They must then be able to apply it. This often takes a leap of the imagination and creative thinking. Pupils may guess, they may be told by the teacher, they may collaborate with a peer. The important thing is that they develop by understanding key ideas and being able to put them into different contexts. If pupils are spoon-fed, they won't grasp the connections. Think about air pressure.

The Air and Water CD in The Adventures of Professor Solvadore series (the other two, Light and Sound and Energy, are expected in March) gives a choice of six problems (including the egg and bottle) on ideas related to air and water. Help in solving the problems comes in several forms. By clicking on any item displayed on the screen, you will be told what that item is and sometimes what it is for. The response is often humorous and melodic, although some of the objects have tunes so catchy they're distracting ("I'm a desk, I'm a desk I'm a ya ya desk"). Clues are also provided by way of questions, such as "Do you think this could have anything to do with the air in the bottle?" One resource is a dictionary of scientific terms and ideas which are linked by hypertext to other relevant areas. For example, you might be directed to look up "air pressure", which has a hypertext link with "hot-air balloon".

Another resource is a series of videos showing girls and boys of primary age doing experiments, with an adult voice-over describing what is happening. The videos are short, snappy and to the point.

These clues and resources are designed not to give you the answer, but to help you make connections. You can attempt to solve the problem at any stage and as many times as you want. If you get it right, you get a certificate and an opportunity to conduct an experiment similar to the one you have solved. If you get it wrong, you're told it's wrong but not told why.

The program is gripping. The variety keeps interest and teaches the concepts well. The program is almost totally reliant on sound and pictures, although the dictionary uses text. This is particularly useful for pupils who find reading hard.

The Adventures of Professor Solvadore could be a useful addition to the primary classroom as well as an educational interactive program to be used at home.

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