Scientific discoveries

5th January 1996 at 00:00
On-line and off-the-shelf, there's masses of material for teachers still struggling with IT, as Angela McFarlane finds out

If you are still wondering just what the possibilities for information technology in science are, you probably were not in one of the schools lucky enough to benefit from the grants for education support and training that went to IT in Science last year. However, all is not lost.

You can brief yourself on the essentials by visiting the National Council for Educational Technology stand at BETT before you go anywhere else. It will have the Enhancing Science with IT resource pack and the Science Newsletters on display, both of which give helpful, objective advice on what to look for when choosing and using IT in science. Alternatively, you can view them at your leisure through the NCET World Wide Web pages at http:ncet.csv.warwick. or online.

If you are at the show on Friday afternoon, there is an NCET seminar by Roger Frost on Science and IT, otherwise see his books on his own stand, IT in Science (see below). NCET will also be showing the NCET TV programmes which go out on BBC2's Learning Zone at night, including one on IT in Science. This shows examples from a number of schools where IT is being used successfully to enhance science teaching. Unsurprisingly, there are some children data logging, but just as importantly there are other examples of IT use which are genuinely useful in the science curriculum. So after half an hour at NCET you will have some good ideas you will want to rush back and try in school. All you need is the right equipment and software.

If you are still looking for equipment to start or expand your data logging, all the regulars will be at the show and you will have a chance to try things out and make your own comparisons. Data Harvest, for example, has an impressive range of new products for this year, and Lego is promising suprises. The Acorn, Apple and RM stands will have kit too, with Acorn and RM both having launched packages which offer hardware and software combinations at competitive prices. These include the new LIVE logger from the LogIT stable.

When it comes to using spreadsheets in science, a number of products include worksheets and example data files, which support lessons that can be integrated easily into the national curriculum. The Warwick system has been around for a while, and has a top-end feel to it, but there will be a new upgrade at BETT which includes models and simulations for GCSE and A level which are worth a look. Collins too has a set of science activities based on ClarisWorks.

The National Association for the Co-ordinators and Teachers of IT (ACITT) has produced a comprehensive pack based on Microsoft Office, which will help science teachers who want to create their own materials rather than use off-the-shelf solutions.

The divide between resources designed for teachers to incorporate in their own teaching materials, and more structured approaches is very obvious in the materials appearing at BETT this year. Several companies are offering CD-Roms relating to science; Longman Logotron's disc of science images, Ransom's Images of Life, Stanley Thornes's Images of Biology and Science Questions, and Doublestruck's Exampro are all examples. These contrast with titles like How Animals Move from Maris with interactive games including build your own animal, and Sonoran Desert from Ransom, which is a simulated field trip. Somewhere in between are the Chemistry Set from New Media, and Investigating Plant Science (Attica) which give you a lot of raw data but in a more structured format to complement the core requirements of GCSE and A level.

Do not despair if CD-Rom is still hard to access in your department. There is still some very nice disc-based science software. Crocodile Clips is a delightful circuit-building simulation complete with animation in the new version. You can build circuits and see them working, even testing components to destruction so they explode on screen. If you have a problem with Physics A-level students whose maths is holding them back, take a look at CAVES' Mathematics for A-level Physics students, which offers a complete modular course suitable for self-study. Also for A level, are the Delsoft Chemistry programs on the AVP stand.

Anyone visiting BETT this year will not fail to notice the heavy emphasis on the Internet and World Wide Web. This is your chance to find out what it is all about, and how much of the hysteria is justified. Certainly there is enormous potential for resource provision over the Net, but just how much would you get if you logged on with Year 10 next Friday afternoon?

The Net@BETT corner is offering visitors a chance to log on and have a look around for themselves. This is bound to be popular, so get there early. Time is likely to be at a premium too, so if you have an idea of what you might look for when you get there, you will get more out of your surfing.

NCET has a seminar on Internet and the Superhighway for secondary schools at 3.00pm on the Thursday, and for primary schools at the same time on the Friday. Alternatively, RM will be running demos of the Internet for Learning, which already has around 2,000 UK school subscribers. This is where science teachers can see the Association for Science Education pages, and education resources aimed at UK schools. Last time I looked, there wasn't a huge amount there, which is very common on the Net at the moment, but there will be more by BETT.

Remember, think about what is happening and likely to happen over the coming years as much as what you see now. This kind of electronic resource will play an increasingly important part in school and home life.

Another example of what's to come is being shown by Question Mark Computing. For the last couple of years they have been providing some very powerful and easy-to-use software which makes the construction and marking of tests considerably less labour-intensive. This operation has now been expanded to include tests offered over the World Wide Web. This may sound impossibly futuristic, but believe me it is already an on-going concern in some countries and is being considered very carefully by UK examinations boards.

* ACITT - stand 694

Acorn - stands 241 and 440

Apple - stand 251

Attica - stand 317

AVP - stand 355

CAVES - stand 422

Collins - stand C16

Crocodile Clips - stand 682

Data Harvest - stand 540

Doublestruck - stand C51

IT in Science - stand C8

NCET - stands 560, 544

Lego - stand 262

Longman Logotron - stand 261

Maris - stand 272

New Media - stand 282

Question Mark Computing - stand 730

Ransom - stand C43

Research Machines - 131

Stanley Thornes - stand C30

Warwick - stand C15

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