Investigations and experiments can be easilyextended with computer help, writes John Wardle.
Most teachers want technology that is accessible, useful and affordable - a tall order. But if this year's offerings at the BETT technology show are anything to go by, their wishes may be answered.
In Cell City (pound;50), from Anglia Multimedia, walls and factories are used as metaphors for cell walls and mitochondria. A "microscope" can be used to view a range of images, supported by materials to help teachers integrate this resource into their biology lessons.
Anglia's range will be expanded this year with three new titles - Waves and Vibrations, Chemical Reactions and Scientific Processes (pound;50 each). The latter (available spring) will tackle the difficult curriculum attainment target 1 by illustrating case studies of scientists' work, enabling pupils to plan experiments, obtain and analyse evidence, draw conclusions and communicate their results.
New Media has been meeting the needs of chemistry teachers with its range of high-quality and innovative products. Chemistry Set 2000 (pound;149.95) is the upgraded and improved version of its highly rated interactive database and includes new multimedia tools. The Key Concepts series of interactive lessons, featuring cartoon chemistry teachers, is expanded to include Understanding Reactions (pound;49.95). These innovative programs include simple and effective activities with worksheets.
Both companies support their software titles with good websites. A developing community of teachers is now emerging in New Media's Chemistry School, sharing lesson plans and solving problems. Anglia's site, AngliaCampus, is a bold marriage of the existing Anglia site and BT Campus World.
The notion of connecting easily to good and relevant material on the Net still defeats most of us. It is encouraging, therefore, to see curriculum-focused sites, as in the STEM project (Students' and Teachers' Educational Materials), designed to help schools make best use of a trip to the Science Museum in London. Schools produce web-pages about their visit, ranging from simple worksheets to interactive investigations.
The site demonstrates pupils' and teachers' capability in applying new technologies, as shown by the excellent fitness site by Buttershaw School of Bradford, West Yorkshire. Here you can test your reaction time and analyse your energy requirements.
Content is an area in which the National Grid for Learning is sadly lacking. The CITS (Curriculum Information Technology Support) resources on the site have been around for some time but are still valuable.
The website of the science teachers' professional organisation, the Association for Science Education, offers resources, links, online booksales and communication between science teachers. It is central to the work of the ASE and is a good starting point for any science teacher visiting the Web.
Datalogging remains of specific interest to science teachers. Software and hardware have reached new heights of flexibility and reliability with Insight 2.0 (pound;79) from Longman Logotron setting the standard for educational datalogging software. With its primary partner, Junior Insight (pound;47), datalogging can be easily achieved throughout the curriculum, satisfying both science and information and communications technology demands.
Understanding Insight is an interactive tutorial program for Insight, with software instructions, experiment details and checks on learning outcomes. Teachers have also found this, at pound;25, a useful and cost effective inservice training aid.
The LogIT family of products continues to impress. For teachers new to datalogging, some general purpose logging software has been included in the range. This will work with the whole LogIT family, from Live to DataMeter 1000, and will offer an easy introduction to datalogging for key stages 2 to 4. Most important, it will be provided free with all LogIT dataloggers.
Data Harvest's approach is to produce well priced equipment that satisfies the needs of teachers. EcoLog, for example, is a dedicated device that can be used by primary schools or secondary school biologists to collect environmental data without a computer. It's small, cheap at pound;149, easy to use and compatible with the whole range of logging software.
A new Data Harvest development is connecting their loggers to cheaper computers. This they have done with palmtop computers, such as the Acorn Pocket Book, and now have impressive software which runs on the NTS DreamWriter computer. This should be a popular option for primary schools using this machine for other applications.
Philip Harris Education's robust range of logging equipment will be supported by a new version of Datadisc Pro suitable for Windows 958 and NT computers.
A fresh approach has been given to measuring motion with STAR (pound;80). Using a "button recorder", movement of ticker tape is stored, taken to a reader and transferred to a computer. Since experiments are performed away from the computer, the scope for investigations is dramatically increased.
Nicholl Education is also introducing an accessible, fibre-optic spectrometer linked to a PC, which will split the spectrum into 256 wavelengths. Pupils will be able to explore filters and relationships between wavelength and intensity. DiVA, with a price of around pound;780, will bring modern instrumentation into the classroom - no more peering down out-of-focus eyepieces in darkened rooms!
Modelling is a process which naturally brings together science and ICT. Often this challenging area is only accessible to the more able key stage 4 or post-16 students. Tag intends to change this with a development of the Logal Explorer range of simulations. Logal Gateway should silence the critics of the previous series by providing models for key stage 3 at a reasonable price of around pound;60.
FutureLab (pound;69) is an impressive suite of CD-Roms bringing together a powerful modelling engine and fusing it with realistic graphics. Gravity, for example, will let you measure acceleration due to gravity on any planet, compare weights and investigate pendulum motion. The range includes circuits, gases, optics and universal gravitation.
All these products will be valued when the Government launches its extensive training programme for all teachers in April. Expect to see many of the companies mentioned here joining forces with educational organisations to offer exciting and innovative training packages.
John Wardle is a senior lecturer in science education at the Centre for Science Education, Sheffield Hallam University. He will be speaking at BETT on using the Internet at key stages 3 and 4 on Friday at 3.30pm in Seminar Room C.
* BETT CONNECTIONS
Anglia Multimedia stand F44 01603 615151 www.anglia.co.uk
Association for Science Education stand AV4 01707 283000 267411 www.ase.org.uk
Buttershaw School http:schoolsite.edex.net.uk323stem.html
Data Harvest stand Q5 01525 373666 data_harvest_education_html
LogIT stand M44 01509 233344 www.fisher.co.uk
Longman Logotron stand F30 01223 425558 www.longman.co.uk
National Grid for Learning stand D72 Becta 01203 416994 www.vtc.hgfl.gov.uk
New Media stand L22 01491 413999 www.new-media.co.uk
Nicholl Education stand Q39 0800 174734 01484 860006 www.nicholl.co.uk
NTS stand L400121 687 8767 www.dreamwriter.com
Philip Harris Education stand C52 01543 480077 www.philipharris.co.uk
STEM stand N9 0171 938 9889 8096 www.nmsi.ac.ukeducationstem
Tag Developments stand F50 01474 357350 0800 591262 www.tagdev.co.uk