Universal praise;End of term

11th June 1999 at 01:00
A US film giant has teamed up with an ICT teacher to produce an entertaining and useful resource pack.

Most teachers try to forget about work when they go on holiday. Keith Byrom is not one of them. The head of information and communications technology at Kettering's Montagu School spends his summer visiting theme parks in the United States and Britain. And it was during one visit that he realised that theme parks could provide useful information for his GCSE information technology groups.

Byrom contacted a number of parks for information, but the response was poor. So all credit then to Universal Studios, which not only took up Byrom's idea of an information pack based around theme parks, but also provided a camera crew and editing facilities for the video that accompanies it.

All the filming was carried out in the Universal Studio's Florida theme park. But this is no promotional pack - Universal did not demand any financial gain from the project and it allowed Byrom overall charge of the pack's content and structure.

The pack itself consists of a ring-bound folder containing a 26-page, A4- booklet, photocopiable worksheets and a 50-minute video. Although designed for GCSE and A-Level IT students, teachers of GNVQ courses in IT, business studies and leisure and tourism could also benefit from using these materials.

The booklet gives a wide range of examples of how and where IT is used at Universal:from front gate ticketing to food services; access control; marketing and controlling the rides. Each section is linked to a corresponding section on the video and the two media complement each other well.

The video sections are short, around eight to 10 minutes each - long enough to relate a chunk of useful information but short enough to maintain a group's attention. In each one, a Universal employee explains how IT is used to operate a system, such as the ticketing gate or the Terminator 2 3D attraction. There are also some fascinating glimpses of behind-the-scenes action.

The worksheets, meanwhile, include questions to test the students' knowledge about information they would have gained from the booklet or video. Other tasks require students to carry out IT work - such as using data-logging equipment to produce a model turnstile system - and there are also "project starters", which require students to design or build various systems, such as a payroll system.

If there is a gripe about the product, it is that the final two sections, Wardrobe and Direct Mailing, offer little information and have no related questions. These could do with more material.

Nevertheless, this pack is a great achievement and Byrom and Universal Studios must have put in a considerable amount of hard work to produce a resource that puts information technology into a novel, and interesting, context.

George Cole

The Uses of Information Technology in Theme Parks by Keith Byrom 01604 864868 Resource pack and video, pound;57.58

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