7th January 2005 at 00:00
Science software isn't so scarce any more. We have models, simulations and revision tools aplenty, but what separates eye-candy from useful software is when it fits a lesson and solves a problem. What makes it great is when it moves us to another level, and happily you'll find much to do that this year.

At first sight, Simple Circuits (pound;60 from Sunflower) is an intuitive electric circuit simulator. You measure amps and volts in Ohm's Law experiments, and you very efficiently learn how lamps share current in parallel circuits. You can switch between real and symbol views of a circuit which is very helpful but it's remarkable that you can also see the sharing as electrons "deliver" energy. Those who never understood what Mr Ohm was on about at last get a chance. Sunflower Multimedia for Biology (featuring eight programs at pound;70 each) is up for a BETT Award and up to the plaudits heaped upon it.

From past BETT award winners Fable, comes Odyssey (pound;149) which delivers advanced animated chemical models like no others. In 80 topics you see 3D molecules colliding and vibrating to explain lone pairs, Boyle's Law, ion solvation and hydrogen bonds. These models are compelling: every movement is calculated and rendered on screen. It's mind-blowing, cutting-edge stuff and helps justify having computers on this planet.

For biology Newbyte's Food Webs: Ponds (pound;199) is a model of a living ecosystem and a tour de force. You can change any factor and show the ups and downs of predators, prey, oxygen and nitrogen in a pond. You can introduce a new organism into this "virtual food web", pollute it or keep things as simple as you need. You can even feed in seasonal data collected with a data-logger.

Krucible (pound;849) from Immersive Education is a series of must-see models about forces, energy and waves that have set the benchmark with do-anything, measure-anything simulated on-screen "laboratories". The scope of this begs for a demonstration though each title now has pupil materials with pre-set experiments. Despite this competition, Crocodile Clips'

Physics and Chemistry (site licence from pound;550 per subject) greet the year with new versions of these thorough on-screen models which can be dropped into a web page.

It's rare to find book publishers hitting the spot but Scientifica (CD-Rom pound;100), a Nelson Thornes' key stage 3 course, has a teacher's CD that's tightly linked to its textbook. It is like an electronic copy of the book but then it adds lesson starters, PowerPoint slides, reliable web links and smart assessment. Channel 4 has Clip Bank (CD-Roms from pound;35 each), where moments from science programmes, such as Seeing Science find their way on to disc for easy access to film and activities. Primary titles include Plants, Human Body, Light Sound (pound;49 each) while secondary schools can have a DVD of The Virtual Body with awesome special effects (pound;25 each). Some attractive library titles with video and facts hail from DidacticsAVP. Though chemistry is not the funniest of subjects, I'd recommend a look at Salts (pound;13) where reacting metals are filmed with rare hilarity.

Primary teachers should see Kar2ouche's Living Things in Their Environment (pound;138) - a no-less-astounding tool to classify animals and discuss adaptation. The work, which entails making storyboards with animals - in their habitats, is unusual, creative and inspiring. Following up the ever-so-sweet animation in Butterflies, Bugs and other Beasties (pound;20) for age 6+, Spiny Software now has Ponds and Streams, offering facts, a virtual pond dip and an identification key (pound;20). RM has Easiteach Science - an add-on for whiteboard software of the same name. Included are concept cartoons, investigation templates and enough to put this on the list for a BETT Award.

Also for primary, the respected Ginn New Star Science gains a set of CDs to work hand in hand with the course. Called Interactive Activities Experiments (pound;65 each from Harcourt), they offer structured walk-through experiments for each year. Sam Learning, well established as an exam-result booster, now has a new online service for primary schools.

Each pupil has an access code they can use to swot up on science at school or home as the system keeps records behind the screen.

More primary resources take shape as the ASE's Primary CD (pound;15) made for Science Year. Careful scrutiny finds the buttons that take you to a bundle of science activities, easily missed on a quick browse and easy to recommend at the price. Last but not least, those looking for essential tools for infants would do well with Infant Video Toolkit 2 (pound;75) with its refreshing, unconventional approach to handling data. Another to see is 2Investigate (pound;39) which especially suits a classification topic.

Don't miss

Fable Multimedia - Odyssey Stand M64

Mind-blowing molecules

Tel: 0870 701 0012

Kar2ouche Krucible Stand D70

Benchmark physics models

Tel: 01865 811000

Sunflower Multimedia for Science Stand Q31

Thinking understanding for 11 to 16

Tel: 0845 1300 680

Other contacts

2Simple Stand F76

Tel: 020 8203 1781

Association for Science Education Stand W98

Tel: 01707 283000

AVP Stand E62

Tel: 020 7473 0480

Channel 4 Stand D42

Tel: 08701 246 444


Crocodile Clips Stand D74

Tel: 0131 226 1511

Didactics Stand E62

Tel: 01291 625439

Espresso Education Stand D64

Tel: 020 8237 1200

Ginn New Star Science Stands W18Y10

Harcourt Education

Tel: 01865 314 405

Hodder Murray Stand PZ72

IT in Science Roger Frost Stand SW100

Tel: 01763 209 109


Tel: 01242 267267

Newbyte Stand M63

Tel: 0141 337 3355

RM Stand D50E50

Tel: 01235 826000

Sam Learning Stand H40

Tel: 0845 130 4160

Sherston Software Stand E60

Tel: 01666 843200

Spiny Software Stand SW83

Tel: 029 2049 5992

Virtual Image Stand SW2

Tel: 0161 480 1915

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