3Schools are connecting to the National Grid for Learning and teachers are being trained, but what software, materials and support will be out there for them? George Cole investigates the role of good content for the cyberschool generation, followed by a subject-by-subject stock-check
When it comes to history titles, the CD-Rom is comparatively small in terms of number of publishers. Ben Walsh, a history and IT consultant, says:
"Some titles have been released with more of an eye to maximising sales than to education. A lot of software requires a switched-on teacher who can get the most out of it." The important thing for teachers to do when using ICT content, is to use it as a support for their pedagogical expertise, Walsh adds.
A good title is one like the British Library's series of Sources in History CD-Roms, where the focus is on interpretation: "Just how dark were the Satanic Mills in the 19th Century?" Walsh does not like software that simply offers a multiple-choice response from the student, arguing that such an approach is too restrictive: "It's an inappropriate use of the medium. The key question to ask is: 'Is this software offering more than a textbook?"
Care should also be taken about buying simply on price: "You don't see much in terms of high-quality images in many software titles because museums and galleries charge a lot for using them in software. Teachers are not always aware that if a title is cheap it's probably because the material on it is cheap."
When it comes to online content, there are some useful resources available, but Walsh believes teachers and students should make more use of email in order to establish links with other schools: "It's a great way of linking up with schools around the world and can be tremendously rewarding."
Ben Walsh can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Virtual Teachers Centre site
Useful for history site links
Offers a variety of history links
Channel 4 education site
home page for BBC education
Public Record Office site
H-Net academic network
History Channel site
Spartacus educational website
Teachers Evaluating Educational Multimedia site
Sources in History series, from pound;49 from British Library. Tel: 01462 672555 www.education.bl.uk
The Troubled Century Case Studies, pound;34 from Granada Learning. Tel: 0161 827 2887 www.granada-learning.com
This Week in History, pound;40 from Sherston Software. Tel: 01666 843200.
Encarta CD-Rom encyclopedia, pound;30.55 from Microsoft. Tel: 0345 002000
Roman Britain, pound;80 from JProgs. Tel: 01604 880119
King Arthur, pound;49.95 from CSH. Tel: 01487 741223
PictureBase series of CD-Roms - various titles including the French Revolution and Roman Britain, from pound;49 AVP
Tel: 01291 625439 www.avp.co.uk
Photobase: Britain since 1930s, pound;29 from Logotron. Tel: 01223 425558
Romans, pound;45 Anglia Multimedia. Tel: 01268 755811 www.anglia.co.uk
My First Amazing History Explorer, pound;19.99 Dorling Kindersley. Tel: 0870 0100 350 www.dkonlinestore.co.uk