6th January 2006 at 00:00
This year there's a monster software harvest and so much to see at BETT 2006, ranging from handy one-lesson tools to whole subject solutions. Top of our list are interactive models with physics almost over-catered for while hardware for science really needs its own heading.

Most easily overlooked is version 5 of Crocodile Physics (pound;190 Crocodile Clips), which gains a new wave section to help understand refraction, interference and diffraction. Here you have sources that send out 2D waves, including one that you can propel across the screen. You can add an obstacle such as a mountain to see what happens to TV signals and then there are detectors to measure how they go. What you gain is a wonderful ability to create models, add pictures and endlessly change variables.

But, as I said, there's a lot of new software, and not the least of it is the credible model worlds of waves and forces created by Immersive Education, whose Krucible series has been upgraded to show full-screen images and be whiteboard-friendly. In Solar System (see website for pricing details) you can investigate eclipses and the seasons. You can even work out the right moment to launch a rocket to Mars using the earth as a "sling-shot". In Floating and Sinking you re-create Archimedes' bath-time experiment. Fable Multimedia and Sunflower Learning also have very distinguished waves titles that merit hands-on play.

If placing science in context is the way you like to go, see Motion-time Graphs (pound;95 from Fable). Taking the motion idea to the max is a 3D race game where in a split screen you see the car's speedo and live graphs of the race - all with the sound of the track. You cannot only hear this, you can see the thought that has gone into making a winning tool for learning. See also Simulation Insight (Logotron, pound;89) where pupils can create graphic models.

Sunflower Learning, which landed two awards last year with a highly interactive suite, now fills a need for pupils to use resources at home.

The need takes shape as an accessible learning management tool where you can set and monitor assignments. What's remarkable is that rich content is at last connecting with ways to sort out what there is to know. Those with an eye for what makes e-learning tick will head to CogBooks where this atomising of concepts helps provide a personal learning path. In essence it has digitised a science curriculum concept map to make a new tool (around pound;200) that can help pupils find their way through a subject and approach the "e-thing" from a fresh angle. For an example of how "atomising" looks in practice you might care to see my own chemistry software (IT in Science, reviewed p73).

The new science GCSEs (age 15-16) trigger a new generation of online resources to enhance printed media so a visit to book publishers Hodder Murray, Nelson Thornes and Heinneman is a must. For ages 12 to 14 you'll find assessment packages based on the KS3 Science Framework. Particularly look at Hodder and Nelson Thornes for impressive attention to detail in a learning management setting. Do also see Exampro (from pound;50 for Exampro - Testbase) a tool to create customised test papers with aplomb.

For primary science, Simulation Explorer (from pound;49 Granada Learning) offers an accomplished half dozen experiments around forces, habitats and tooth decay. It's well matched to the curriculum; all the more likeable for letting you choose between two or three variables to play with. Beside this, Ponds Streams (from pound;34 Spiny Software) is my favourite, with a clever minibeast identification key and lovely drawings. For science TV on your PC there's Seeing Science for ages five to seven years (pound;50 from Channel 4).

For colleges and teacher education OATmedia has the tutorial-style Essential Physics - Electricity and Magnetism that's attractive and competent. You move pretty quickly through so it's a handy way to catch up on what there is to know. Channel 4 extends the Clipbank mix of TV programme and lesson resources on CD. New for secondary schools are several titles about oil, rocks, polymers and limestone offering film and clips about these industries (from Pounds 65).

Finally, try Caspian's walk-around science environments. Here pupils explore habitats, respiration, photosynthesis, earth and space, moving around these "worlds" to gain knowledge from various characters within (Caspian Learning pound;399 each). The novel approach merits a walk-through and a comfy seat, too.

Don't miss

Crocodile Physics Major waves upgrade Crocodile Clips Stand D74 Tel 0131 226 1511

Motion-time graphs on a race track Fable Multimedia Stand M64 Tel 0870 701 0012

Simulation Explorer for primary science Granada Learning Stand E40F40

Other contacts

BBC Stand F30

Birchfield Interactive Stand Z56

Cambridge-Hitachi Stand A20

Caspian Learning Stand C100

Channel 4 Stand D42 www.channel4.comlearningshop IT in Science Stand SW44

CogBooks Stand S14

ExamproDoublestruckTestbase AQA Stand A40 QCA Stand Y36

Gridclub Stand C90

Harcourt Education Stand Y10 Hodder Murray Stand X28

Immersive Education Stand D70

Nelson Thornes Stand C70

Neptune Computer Tech Stand H70

NESTA Futurelab Stand Y30


Newbyte Stand M63


Physics Concepts Stand SW141

Plato learning

Sherston Stand E60

Logotron Stand B30

Spiny Software

Sunflower Learning Stand Q24

Topologika Software

Virtual Image Stand SW4 Tel: 0161 480 1915

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