You can make it

7th November 1997 at 00:00
Bob Welch reviews a flexible collection of task-based materials for GCSE

Design and Make It series. Food Technology. Resistant Materials. Textiles Technology. Electronic Products. Graphic Products. Stanley Thornes Pounds 8.99 each. Design and Make It video. Pounds 14.99. Teacher's Guide Pounds 14. 99. Channel 4 Schools, PO Box 100, Warwick CV34 6TZ

The exploits of the famous five are now becoming well known to schools. The five GCSE endorsements, that is - textiles, electronic products, resistant materials, food and graphic products. Some schools manage to offer all five courses, while others concentrate on a narrower range. Whatever is offered in the key stage 4 options menu, good books and resource material linked to examination requirements will never be short of buyers.

The Design and Make It series hits the nail on the head. Each of the five pupil textbooks relates to one material area and covers the NEAB syllabuses. The books contain a range of focused tasks, ideas for projects and factual material. Key facts are identified in the text and can be used as a revision aid.

Written by teachers who understand what pupils need, the books may be used in several ways. This flexibility will be welcomed by teachers who need to match materials to available resources, time, levels of attainment and motivation. It would be possible to construct a course solely around the design and make projects described in the text, or to extend them with those of your own. Either way, the requirements of the syllabus and the programme of study should be fully satisfied.

As with many modern textbooks, the presentation is colourful and lively. No doubt, in an attempt to reach out to the audience, speech bubbles from somewhat detached-looking cartoon faces provide advice. Thankfully, these disappear after the initial project guidance section. This offers good advice on aspects of designing as well as helping pupils organise their design folder.

One omission, though, is any guidance on how long to spend on the work. Some pupils spend inordinate amounts of time on research (often of a spurious nature) only to leave themselves too little time to manufacture a high-quality product that can be fully tested and evaluated in use. Encouraging pupils to draw up their own production schedules helps enormously and could have featured more strongly. The indexing could also be clearer. For example, six different entries are included for the word capacitor in Electronics Products when all that is really needed is a single reference to a page describing the component in detail.

The books are complemented by an excellent series of television programmes produced by Channel 4 Learning. They form part of the Technology Programme series and provide short, well-focused industry-based case studies for each material area. With only a minimal number of "talking heads", the programmes are lively and informative. The use of time-lapse photography adds pace without detracting from the central messages.

Each programme contains contrasting case studies. These show a range and diversity of products from hand-held computers to aerosols and from chill-cook meals to musical instruments. They provide valuable insights for pupils in how products can be manufactured in quantity (for instance, one million chocolate bars a day), and include many examples of computer-aided manufacture. The accompanying teacher's guide includes a useful set of follow-up questions and activities.

Bob Welch is a senior adviser for Berkshire

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