Quarry of tales about the old days

20th February 2004 at 00:00
Changing Scotland: Scottish Society 1880-1939 Peter Hillis and Drew Calderwood CD-Rom pack Higher Still and Standard grade pack pound;10 plus pound;1.50 pamp;p; additonal CD-Roms pound;2 University of Strathclyde

Keith Polson reviews a CD-Rom that is just the sort of resource secondary history staff will want

Census material used in Changing Scotland enables pupils to compare and contrast life in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow from 1880-1939; the changing patterns of migration, housing conditions and people's working lives.

Higher history classes covering urbanisation will welcome this CD-Rom. Much of it would be relevant to Standard grade too.

The 10 chapters cover the growth of towns and cities, work, family life, education, religion, leisure, entertainment and sport, drinking and temperance. There are useful sections on note taking, essay writing and a bibliography to assist further enquiry.

The chapters follow a common design. A brief background sets the events in context and readers are taken step by step through the key developments and changes. Students make their own notes, supplemented by summaries at the end, so active learning and reinforcement are to the fore.

Note-taking and other activities prepare pupils for questions they will face in national assessment banks and external assessments. The activities will also allow them to relate their personal experiences to complex issues. The wealth of tasks is designed to encourage debate and opinion, illustrating well that this is what history is about, it is not just facts.

The activities can be printed off, providing a booklet of materials for pupils to work through, or pupils can type their answers into a computer and then print out the completed sheets. Either way, the pupil and teacher have a record.

The program contains a variety of interesting primary and secondary sources. Each section has accounts from people who experienced the changes, providing a rich quarry of rare insights into the values and attitudes of the period. Video and audio clips add depth. Many of these were clearly selected to raise important questions, such as the extent to which official attitudes reflected reality.

The guide to writing essays includes samples. Students are asked to assess their own work using SQA performance criteria.

One asset of the CD-Rom is the flexibility and choice of delivery it offers. The census data can be used in an enquiry exercise, for example.

One of its best selling points is its consistently interactive nature. This and the variety of activities offered should ensure that pupils do not get bored while being directed towards acquiring the knowledge and skills required to gain a good exam pass.

Astutely developed ICT resources such as this are exactly the kind of material that school history departments need.

Keith Polson teaches history at Galashiels Academy, Scottish Borders

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