Passing the litmus test

9th January 1998 at 00:00
Software for Science Teaching. By Roger Frost, Pounds 18.50.

IT In Science, 7 Sutton Place, London E9 6EH. Telfax: 0181-986 3526

IT IS 15 years since computers were delivered to school doorsteps like manna from heaven in Kenneth Baker's much hyped micros in schools scheme. The information technology revolution that the former Education Secretary forecast has not quite come about in classrooms, not least because many busy teachers do not have time to find out what software they can use for their own subjects or how it can fit into the curriculum, and more specifically their schemes of work and lesson plans. Software for Science Teaching, Roger Frost's latest publication from the IT In Science mission centre in Hackney, east London, will help.

In the book of more than 130 pages, des-cribed as a "catalogue to find software that works in class", Frost gives a blunt account of the huge range of software available to help science teachers. Unlike many software reviewers, he is not afraid to make judgements about the packages on offer, asking if they will work in science education and, if so, how - as electronic blackboards, tutorials, revision aids or for home use?

Each program considered is given the Frost "snowflake" rating. Better programs, either on CD-Rom or floppy discs, are given a full description so that teachers can decide how they could fit into their own ways of working. The aspect of fitting in is one of the central themes of the book, accessing how software fits into the curriculum, the laboratory, the classroom, the library or the home, how it fits the learners, the teacher and their teaching style.

Curiously, the idea of IT fitting into teachers' practices and, equally, of teachers adapting their practices to make the best use of IT are concepts which were ignored in the early 1980s when the BBC computer was pushed into schools.

It is interesting to note that some of the excellent software of that time (for example, simulation programs such as Moving Molecules) are listed in Frost's book, although, sadly, very little of it has been converted for newer systems. It is good to see Developing Tray, a classic program devised for older computers, has been updated for Windows.

The coverage of titles and packages is comprehensive and I searched in vain to find any science material on CD-Rom which has not been considered and given either a warm or a frosty treatment. This book is well worth the price; every school science department should have one.

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