Modern world methods

1st December 2000 at 00:00
ACTIVITIES IN HISTORY. By Malcolm Chandler. Heinemann Pounds. 49.99 plus VAT for single user licence.

This combined book and CD pack has much to recommend it. To begin with, it is written by an experienced author and examiner but, more importantly, he has kept his history teacher hat on. There are many encouraging references along the lines of: "The emphasis is very much on making use of ICT to support historical activities and inquiry, and not on fitting history into ICT".

I am not sure the editors and copywriters always agreed with the author. There are some rather half-hearted sections on the CD-Rom which allegedly deal with ICT skills. Given the range of software in schools the advice is so general as to be of limited value. This is understandable, but might have been better tackled in a few caveat paragraphs in the book.

This should not obscure some really helpful ICT- focused material. The book contains some useful introductory material to help teachers develop a general philosophy towards using ICT in history. The planning grids that map ICT requirements against the activities in the bok and CD should be helpful, as long as they are not used mechanistically to "tick off" various requirements.

The activities cover a range of issues in mainstream areas of British and modern world history. I cannot imagine a history department looking at the contents list and seeing anything they regard as obscure or outlandish. There is also a good deal of local history material.

Many of the activities are very good. There is an imaginative medieval play. The investigation into Edward V is well structured and provides students with lots of support. Another good example is the activity that involves producing a guide book on the Somme or Ypres.

Against this, many activities are low-level comprehension exercises. In contrast to the good examples, it is hard to see in these instances where ICT adds anything to the teaching of history. There are also a few instances where good activity ideas are rendered less effective than they might be because the support is thin or references to sources of further information are rather vague.

All in all, though, a welcome addition to resources.

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