Virtual fieldwork

7th November 2003 at 00:00
FOCUS ON GEOGRAPHY: River Studies. CD-Rom. Focus Educational Software Special offer until December 20: pound;79.95. (plus pound;3.50 Pamp;P) including site licence. (RRP pound;99.95 + Pamp;P)

Fluvial characteristics and bedload analysis are popular topics for fieldwork projects at GCSE and A-level. But teaching students how to collect, record, present and analyse data beforehand can be difficult. This CD-Rom provides an innovative and user-friendly solution.

Two of the four units take the user through a piece of interactive virtual fieldwork based on a 10km section of a small lowland river. The user can select sample sites and even the season before entering a variety of measurements into spreadsheets that automate many of the calculations.

Interest is maintained by a clever use of click-and-drag graphics simulating the processes of data collection. Graphs and cross-sections can easily be produced and hypotheses tested with Spearman's Rank.

A good selection of photos shows the individual sites in winter and summer.

Other units allow real data to be input in the same way as the virtual fieldwork. The easy user interface, help notes and the ability to save and print work, including your own photographs, are important strengths of this product. But those who already use spreadsheets to input data may find the range of graphs and statistical tests limiting.

FIELDWORK INVESTIGATIONS: For ASA2, Scottish Higher amp; IB Geography. Curriculum Press. pound;60 (plus pound;7.50 Pamp;P)

This large loose-leaf photocopiable pack is also available as a CD-Rom containing the pack as a pdf file. Its aim is to "stimulate independent investigations" and it is essentially a "how to" resource for use with post-16 students embarking on taught or independent fieldwork.

Eleven of the 13 sections examine data collection, presentation and analysis techniques used in common areas of study at this level. The other sections cover map work and statistical techniques.

The pack's main strength is the breadth of coverage. Each section consists of 30 or more well-used pages. Sections start with general techniques for that environment and offer a good up-to-date list of printed and internet references. Each section details a number of worked investigations to help students structure their projects.

The diagrams are good and clearly annotated. The pack is pricey, but the flexible format ensures its utility. For departments considering buying a whole set of fieldwork techniques textbooks, this could well be considered as a cheaper alternative.

Peter Home is head of geography at Clifton College, Bristol

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