Virtual labs

7th September 2001 at 01:00
CROCODILE-CLIPS. Crocodile Chemistry 1.5. Crocodile Physics 1.5. Crocodile Technology 1.5. pound;190 each + VAT. Free upgrade for existing users of version 1.0 or 1.22 (chemistry), version 1 (technology),pound;95 + VAT to upgrade version 1.0 (physics)

Never really understood science at school myself. We loved making bad smells in chemistry and blowing things up in physics though." This dinner-party small-talk could become rarer as ICT increasingly allows students to "do" practical work at the click of a mouse. Although it can never be as memorable or multi-sensual as the real thing, good simulation software has undeniable benefits when used to supplement rather than supplant lab work.

Crocodile Chemistry provides a virtual laboratory allowing secondary students to experiment with more than 100 chemicals without breaking glassware or setting things on fire. Additions to previous releases include a section on electrochemistry and an interactive periodic table. It is complex, so time spent reading the help files does pay.

This is a resource that will be most useful to more able students, or at least those patient enough not to dive in clicking randomly. There is also the facility for teachers to create "movies", that is, virtual demonstrations.

New with the Physics CD-Rom is Absorb High School Physics, a GCSEStandard grade course using the simulations. Navigation is very intuitive and although the style is unexciting it does the job. The tests that come with the course need tightening up: 1000J is recognised as correct, but not 1000 J or 1kJ. Symbol equations can be neatly rearranged, by clicking on the term you want solving, although not word equations.

"Interactive learning activities" such as multiple choice tests can be created. If you think making lessons into Powerpoint presentations is fun, this could be a draw, but many would find it fiddly.

The Technology CD-Rom covers electricity and electronics, mechanics and programming. The new release allows you to debug and then download your newly written program to certain manufacturers' microcontrollers. Download free demos first at www.crocodile-clips.com

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