Test yourself against geography's Deep Blue
Three-floppies for PC; Pounds 19.99 ex VAT. The Usable Software Company, Suite 021, EBC House, Ranelagh Gardens, London SW6 3PA. Fax: 01794 345993. Age range: 14-16.
I wish I had used this geography resource when I was at school - both as pupil and teacher. It is a huge selection of multiple-choice questions, covering all current GCSE syllabuses. It's informative and competitive, good for both revision and learning, simple to use, yet with a depth of potential. It's good fun, too.
Load it up and away you go. Hundreds of questions are categorised, first under the main headings of human, physical and skills and then under numerous subheadings: rivers, coasts, glaciers, mountains, etc. You get the picture. Choose the subject, select the number of questions you wish to tackle and prepare to do battle.
Battle? Well, naturally this kind of exercise brings out the competitive element in us all. This is the Deep Blue of geography. It is silently recording your score and you know that once you press the wrong key there are no second chances. Inevitably with the CD-Rom format the questions use graphics to their fullest potential, both in the questions and with the operating layout.
There is flexibility, too. You can set your own configurations, allow numerous users to store their scores on the same program and return to tests you were unable to complete. Each right answer, once uncovered, is supplemented by an explanation of why it was the right answer. Students should be encouraged to read these notes - they provide the real learning opportunities.
The only shortcoming is the five-part multiple-choice format used for every question, which does make testing difficult in some of the more conceptual areas. There are some contorted statements under the "which of the following are not true" category! That said, all the questions have been set by teachers currently working at GCSE, so they are as realistic and relevant as you are going to get. In short, Revise: Geography is (a) relevant, (b) helpful, (c) practical and (d) well-designed.
Debate is another simple idea that makes full use of a computer's data storage capability. Three floppy discs contain all the detail required for running simulations or debates on nine important issues: shopping, tourism, agriculture, planning, transport, pollution, energy, industry and theenvironment.
Nine topics ensure that almost every angle is covered. An introductory text is the prelude to a motion that can be debated by six characters. The background to their roles and views is provided. "Press updates" also add extra information to give a sense of life and real time to the debates.
The Usable Software Company opted for fictional situations which is safe but less valuable than real world examples with all their peculiar twists and turns. There is, however, the opportunity to customise the discs to a certain extent. Teachers can write in their own information and tailor the press releases. It is claimed that you could adapt the debates to real-life situations, but this would take a lot of work. You might as well start from scratch.
At Pounds 19.99, for a resource that will not date, Debate is a good investment.