Milton Keynes: its part in the salvation of the world

3rd January 1997 at 00:00
UNDERSTANDING ENERGY

CD-Rom for Windows and Apple Macs Pounds 50 plus VAT Anglia Multimedia Tel 01603 615151

BIOLOGY TUTOR, LEVELS 5 - 8

For IBM and compatible PCs Kinetic Computing Tel 01942 205405

Both these programs will prove valuable for teachers and learners at GCSE level science. They come in different formats (the Biology Tutor on four floppy discs, the other on one CD) but both are easy to install and run. It is increasingly hard to classify educational software these days, compared with a previous era when programs were either a database, a tutorial, a simulation, a modelling program or whatever. Thus many CD-Roms for education now have a mixture of several uses thrown in - sometimes we see a simulation, other parts might contain data which can be retrieved and used, other parts are pure tutorial or revision aid. No simple classification fits any single CD-Rom.

Understanding Energy could be described largely as a tutorial and information retrieval program, in that it involves the learner largely in reading from the screen, gathering information and providing the means for saving and using it. It therefore makes an excellent revision aid for GCSE science, although the program blurb says that it is largely aimed at the 11 to 14 age range, a group for which the language level and difficulty of concepts would prove high.

The program covers energy by discussing and defining the minefield of units that plague this area (from calories through to million tonnes of oil equivalent to kilowatt hours and terajoules). This is not an easy task but one which perhaps has to be done and is done well here. But why can't we all stick to joules?

An easier section discusses where we get our energy supplies from and covers a wide range of energy sources from hot rock to wind and waves, treated in a clear and visual manner.

This program makes very little use of video and none of sound but still manages to get difficult concepts across, often with the help of "hot words" (hypertext links). One of the best sections for detail which would form a good target for any assignment is the coverage of global energy use and the excellent displays of energy statistics from around the world. This clearly shows that if we all used energy at the same rate as North Americans, the end of the world would be nigh. It takes us back to good old Milton Keynes, which may not be the best exemplar of sustainable energy use but at least has some fascinating housing, and by using photos and text (again, video is not widely used) demonstrates how people can live well and yet not consume vast amounts of the world's resources.

This program will be valuable for home revision for the growing numbers of the world's more fortunate population who have multimedia at home (especially after Christmas). At school, additional features such as the 15 activity sheets, the many photos and the 60 diagrams which can be saved to floppy disc will mean that teachers can use it as part of typical classroom practice when large numbers of pupils will have to take turns on one system.

The Biology Tutor will prove to be an equally useful revision aid at home and at school. It is not multimedia, but the diagrams are clear and colourful and the program is easy to use and find your way around. It is targeted at the biology syllabus for separate and co-ordinated science, which it breaks down into topic areas such as body systems, biotechnology, decay cycles, inheritance, population, etc.

The student is presented with around 27 multiple-choice questions questions on each topic. Feedback is given on the answers, providing relevant information. The exact location of each question in the syllabus can be seen by clicking on Info. The learner's performance can be monitored by keeping a session log. In short, the program is an ideal revision aid for GCSE science.

Both these programs show that computer-assisted learning can be of value, even if it does not use every medium of multimedia.

* BETT CONNECTION

Anglia Multimedia stand 357

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