Scientific saviours

7th September 2001 at 01:00
Spurred on by the pressures to "do NOF training", these last two years have seen more teachers using ICT in science than at any other time. With time and money so precious this is laudable - more so because ICT has a habit of consuming both. So whether you're doing a NOF programme (state schools have until March to sign up) or thinking longer term, here to help is a selection of ideas that, one way or another, break the rule.

For ages people have asked how they're supposed to use the Internet, and Becta has collected ideas to answer that. Idea number one is to use it to see what other teachers do, so at their VTC you'll find science activities based on the QCA Scheme of Work. They make headway in matching the needs of ICT and science in primary and secondary schools.

Idea number two is that pupils might use the Internet for science lessons, and this takes shape in two photo-copiable manuals called Science Online (for secondary) and Primary Online (mixed subjects). Each is an eclectic mix of a dozen practical activities involving research and interaction. They show what's possible and reassure that science teaching takes many forms.

For ages too, schools have seen the value of using sensors in science investigations. Primary schools can seriously consider LogIT Explorer (see Online October 12 for full review), a tidy device that does all it needs to at low cost. It has an all-important screen that shows temperature, light and sound levels around the school. It can record, say, room temperatures, noise and sunlight levels over many days. And although launched earlier this year, it's based on established equipment costing a couple of hundred pounds more.

Secondary schools can try the Heart Monitor from Pasco. Breaking tradition, it makes a worthwhile demonstration so you don't need a set of them. While it seems pricey, it saves a great amount of setting up time: this unusually easy plug-and-play (USB) sensor is hard to forget how to use. You can gain extra value by using its USB link for other sensors that measure distance and pH. The nice software even makes it fun to use.

Take a look at Force and Motion from Fable and you may agree that some things are worth paying for. This BETT award winning title offers 11 programs to help with ideas like the velocity-time graph, two-dimensional collisions, and the orbits of satellites. Like the best software models, there are variables to change and results to see and record. For example, in the "circular motion" program students can investigate the relationships between speed and frequency, radius or mass. Another lets them draw vectors and change speed or distance in this bemusing topic. Unlike many, it installs easily on a network and there's accompanying pupil material to save aeons thinking this through.

For biology at most secondary school levels, Creatures, Dr Sauro's foxes and rabbit simulator, has become a classic. Set in a field of green and blue blobs, representing grass and rabbits, pupils watch their populations rise or extinguish as time passes. You can ask them to predict what will happen if they turn down the sun or burn the grass, and then they can try it on the simulator. Though it is an old title, it still cuts the mustard in many schools. It is inexpensive, will run well on an old PC and, with the wonder of Internet shopping, is at last available again.

Also for biology, New Media offers Alveolus and Breathing amp; Respiration featuring perhaps the clearest and most attractive animations. Like book diagrams brought to life, you see blood in capillaries taking up oxygen and losing carbon dioxide. These are part of what's become a huge range titles. Many work well off a demonstration screen, while others like Inheritance and Rates of Reactions merit a class hands-on session.

And so finally to Exampro, a database of questions you can use to create your own test papers, mock exams and homework. With a version aimed at all subjects and at all levels, it sounds like a massive undertaking, and is some measure of the time it can save. It's rumoured to be relaunched shortly.

Roger Frost is a science and ICT consultant

* Top 10 software

Primary Online or Science Online from Becta. Price: pound;9.95 Tel: 024 76741 6669 www.becta.org.uk

Force and Motion for PC and Mac from Fable. Price: pound;79.95 single-user, pound;175 school network LogIT Explorer, datalogger for primary schools from RM, Commotion, Griffin and George

Price: pound;169.95 for serial version, USB version also available.

Heart Rate Sensor from Pasco Price: approx PASPORT USB Link pound;71 plus pound;155 for sensor Tel: 0208 560 5678 www.pasco.com

Creatures from Future Skill Software. Price: pound;25 singlepound;36 20-userwww.fssc.demon.co.ukEduSoftedusoft.htm

Alveolus, Breathing amp; Respiration Inheritance and Rates of Reactions from New Media. Price: site licence approx pound;70 each. www.new-media.co.uk

ExamproTestbase from Doublestruck Price: Various syllabi and key stage packages at around pound;100 per titlewww.exampro.co.uk

Bodyworks from AVP Price: pound;30 Chemistry Set from AVP. Price: pound;149.95www.avp.co.uk

Science Explorer key stage 2 software from Granada Learning. Price: pound;49 www.granada-learning.co.uk

* Top 10 websites

Science Year: www.scienceyear.com

Ask a scientist: www.sciencenet.org.uk

ICT in the Curriculum - science:www.vtc.ngfl.gov.ukdocserver.php?temid=98

Journey through the Solar System: www.madscientist.uk.com

Advanced physics simulations: www.materialworlds.com

Sheffield College's science on the Web: www.sheffcol.ac.ukweblinks

Physics interactives: www.explorescience.com

How stuff works: www.howstuffworks.com

Schoolzone: www.schoolzone.co.uk

Print your own graph paper: www.marquis-soft.com

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