Primary matters

5th November 2004 at 00:00
Seeing Geography series Localities in the UK Localities around the World Environmental Change Site licence pound;100, class licence pound;75, CD-Rom pound;35 4Learning, PO Box 4000, Wetherby LS23 7LG Tel: 08701 244 444

The Seeing Geography CD-Roms provide valuable resources to support teaching at key stage 2. Each has a clear focus and bright presentation, and they are easy to load and navigate. They are also all eligible for e-learning credits.

For each topic, children can use control buttons to access a video or a word bank, look at a photo album, test their knowledge or play a game.

They can also copy and print. A separate area for teachers contains notes, activity sheets and other support material.

There are more than 50 photos and 30 minutes of video on each CD-Rom.

Teachers familiar with Channel 4's educational programmes will recognise some of the extracts - now they can access the comprehensive collection of video clips, with huge educational potential on a variety of themes and topics.

What a pity, therefore, that the text screens have such a strong factual bias and miss the chance to raise questions and provoke creative thinking.

The material on overseas localities over-emphasises the colonial past and conveys misleading impressions.

For example, the section on Indian travel tells us that women travel in separate carriages, and that people sit in the luggage racks in trains without doors. Here, the photos and video clips don't help. The four pictures of Mumbai city life show a house with a tin roof where water has to be boiled to make it safe to drink and many people sleep in the streets.

Where are the positive images that stress similarities rather than differences and celebrate the richness and diversity of an ancient culture?

Used judiciously, these CD-Roms could be of great value in augmenting the geography curriculum, but they need to be used with care.

Channel 4 might take the opportunity to include maps when updating these materials. The absence of a cartographic component is a striking omission in such a varied package.

Stephen Scoffham is principal lecturer, faculty of education, Canterbury Christ Church University College

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