Review: A free taste of country life
CD-Rom and video (teacher's guide to follow).
Free to all Scottish secondary schools
Crown Estate Office, 10 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh EH2 4DR
Glenlivet estate ranger Andrew Wells has taken four years to compile this resource, which is an attempt by the Higher Still Development Unit to increase the present drip of geography materials to a trickle.
The package covers the social, economic and land use issues in a huge piece of the Scottish Highlands - the 28,000 acre Glenlivet estate to the north-east of the Cairngorms, and fits neatly into the land use sections at Intermediate levels 1 and 2. It could also help with rural change (Higher core) and rural land resources (Higher applications).
The 15-minute video has a great deal going for it. A superb array of colour photos enlivens a vast amount of detail being given in the excellent commentary. (Keep the pause button handy.) The traditional layout of position, relief, geology, soils and climate should please everyone who likes a framework to hang their geography on. The ensuing interchange of physical and human, finally taking you into the future and the Glenlivet Development Project, is also extremely pleasing. I found the absence of talking heads a real plus - the memorable photography did its own talking.
As an up-to-date study of how people actually have to manage and sustain a piece of Scotland and have a responsibility to provide work, visitor access, modern facilities like new stiles and cycle paths, and even museums and facilities for school parties, this video is stimulating. It would be above the heads of many youngsters, but discriminating use by the teacher could get round that.
Sadly, the CD-Rom has the opposite effect. The Adobe Acrobat package is fussy and not particularly user-friendly. The CD is lifeless - 131 pages of textbook on screen, and rather dull at that. It is not geared to most of our youngsters. If it has a niche in Scottish schools, it would only be in the Advanced Higher.
Final thoughts? The CD-Rom will gather dust but the video will get plenty of playbacks - and it's free.
Bryan Ryalls is principal teacher of geography at Liberton High School, Edinburgh