Failing to get the mixture right

8th March 1996 at 00:00
Judges in the primary section of the Resources Awards found a clear winner. But it was a solitary award: Jerry Wellington explains how the secondary judges were disappointed


Food - A Fact of Life: Energy and Nutrients. British Nutrition Foundation.

The secondary category of the Resources Award was intriguing, but far less exciting than the primary. Perhaps this reflected the different ethos, with our criteria suiting better the primary practice of a class working on different activities in small groups, using a range of media which can allow for differentiation and versatility. Perhaps it also reflected more creative thinking in primary publishing.

Whatever the reason, not one entry met all our criteria. Countless CD-Roms were turned away because they didn't form part of a rich package of materials. A number of the publishers argued that all the media - audio, video, print - can be combined on a single disc, and that is an argument which we have accepted for next year's awards.

Several entries were interesting and attractive, although they did not meet the criterion of three media. The BBC Macbeth on CD-Rom (BBC HarperCollinsAttica Pounds 75, plus VAT), for example, comes packaged with the book, and offers an exciting route to studying Shakespeare with all sorts of possibilities for watching and listening to the play - searching for words such as "bloody" (as in "what bloody man is that") or finding translations of the bard's more difficult language, such as "kerns and gallowglass". This was a resource one could play with - and learn from - all day; if only a video of the BBC production had been included, it would have been fantastic.

Similarly, Stanley Thornes's Images of Biology provides an excellent CD-Rom (Pounds 135, plus VAT) to accompany a textbook (Pounds 23.50) for advanced biology, while Action Aid's Discover India (Pounds 55) offers an imaginative package of cardssheets for teachers and pupils, plus CD-Rom.

So it was reluctantly that we decided not to award a full prize in the secondary category, but instead to commend highly one package which does combine print, video and computer software: Food: A Fact of Life, from the British Nutrition Foundation (Pounds 58.75, plus Pounds 15.28 for software).

This is an excellent resource which draws on a wide range of media and does allow for flexible use and differentiation in the secondary classroom. It also lends itself to a number of curriculum areas.

The pack consists of beautifully produced, colourful workcards based on different themes, such as proteins, vitamins, carbohydrates, alcohol - all things we love to consume. These contain a lot of information and some activities for pupils. The videos present information and views about food and its consumption in an interesting way and could be used in parallel with the cards. Other cards provide questions and answers on food, and could be used with a whole class or in small groups, while a software program, a sort of "eatmeter", allows pupils to calculate their daily consumption. It is all well packaged in a robust form and will stand a lot of classroom use.

Its excellence lies, however, in the printed material, its presentation and packaging - the judges were disappointed by the video and the software, both of which seemed a bit dated. For this reason we did not feel able to give it a full award.

One other entry was considered a good mixed media pack. The BBC's Dead Man's Chest (Pounds 46.99 inc), which delves into the life and work of Robert Louis Stevenson, would suit not just the national curriculum, but the Scottish curriculum too. And in the hands of the right teacher, it could provide a range of well-differentiated activities.

Criticisms concerned the difficulty of some of the language, a lack of sufficient support material for teachers, and rather too much focus on the author himself, rather than on his excellent stories.

For next year, producers, providers, publishers, show us that the secondary tradition does not need to be more didactic and concerned with delivering the curriculum, and that the secondary classroom can operate with flexible, student-centred, differentiated resources.

Jerry Wellington is a reader in education at Sheffield University. The other judges were Roy Blatchford, a member of SCAA and headteacher, Bicester Community College, Oxfordshire; Jean Beck, National Council for Educational Technology; Ian Wilson, headteacher, Woodcote High School, Surrey and Eleanor Caldwell, a teacher at Wallace High School, Stirling

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