Learn on the Web without going online
Tom McQueen reviews some of the latest resources which aim to boost physics studies for teachers and pupils
SCETNet's latest CD for physics introduces Internet resources to physics teachers without requiring connection to the Net. Covering Standard grade through to Advanced Higher or A-level, most of the activities are very suitable to Higher.
After the opening screen, the Physics Department corridor appears with a choice of two doors: the staff base or the classroom. Clicking on the classroom door gives the student the choice of 20 activities from mechanics and properties of matter to electricity and electronics, waves and radiation.
Presented in the form of an introductory worksheet, this then refers the student to Internet sites which can be accessed directly from the CD-Rom. Mainly applicable to Higher, some of these activities, such as Ohm's Law, are more relevant to Standard grade or Intermediate 2; or single-slit diffraction to A-level.
Generally easily accessed and user-friendly, in some cases there was difficulty exiting from a site, but this may have been due to personal inexperience. Of particular value are the activities concerning projectiles, momentum and wave interference. Students should find these interesting and absorbing because they illustrate well the various aspects of the subject.
The second door leading to the physics staff base is intended as a resource for teachers, but some sites here could also interest students. There are six sets of box files, the first of which contains sites used in classroom activities.
The second contains sites which are useful as background. Another contains brief biographies of famous physicists. The other boxes contain a cyberschools column run by The Herald newspaper, and a list of websites. A fifth box contains information on the relevance of classroom activities to Higher and A-level courses, and the last box has links to the Higher Still arrangements for Intermediate 2 and Higher.
Teachers, particularly of Higher physics, will find this CD helpful. It is attractively presented and relatively easy to use, contaning some excellent teaching resources from the Internet pitched at an appropriate level.
NEW HIGHER PHYSICS by Adrian Watt, edited by Jim Page, pound;16.99. Hodder and Stoughton. Order through Bookpoint, tel: 01235 827722
As its name suggests, New Higher Physics is intended to provide full coverage of the Higher Physics course under the Higher Still arrangements. In fact it also includes the Intermediate 2 course.
The book is divided into three chapters, corresponding to the Higher units: mechanics and matter; electricity and electronics; and waves and radiation. Each chapter is then sub-divided into topics, most of which, like instantaneous speed, are set out as double-page spreads.
After a group of topics, there is a set of consolidation questions which start with worked examples. At regular intervals there are examination-style questions, again preceded by worked examples, which provide students with a generous supply of practice questions.
Progression within the units is clear and logical, starting with material of Intermediate 2 standard and progressing to Higher level. Instructions for experiments are provided at appropriate points. Frequently the accompanying diagrams for these are of particular quality and clarity.
The book does not stray far from the requirements of the relevant syllabuses, which is helpful for students. But in attempting to cover the requirements of two different levels in a single volume the authors have presented themselves with a challenge.
They have adopted an approach of labelling those topics which can be identified as only Intermediate 2 or only Higher level, and this works quite well. However, there are some topics which contain material relevant to both levels, and in these cases no indication of level is given.
A revision checklist at the end of the book details the content statements for each level, but students could be confused regarding which parts of a topic are relevant to their course. On the same subject, it would be useful to have the questions identified as Int 2 or H.
Of course teachers will guide their students as to which parts of the book are relevant to their needs, and overall this is a valuable addition to the list of books available to those studying Higher physics.
Tom McQueen is head of physics at St Aloysius' College, Glasgow