Professional, Originally Released On Cassette Only
Review (Electron User)
Each year a crop of 16-year-old students get into a panic over O-level or CSE exams. The aim of this package is to assist pupils taking any exam in physics at age 16+. Its content has taken into account the new GCSE courses as well as the more traditional ones.
I was sent this package to review because I am a teacher of physics. The obvious course of action was to try it out on my present fifth year students. I was very pleased that the programs run on both the BBC Micro and Electron. Virtually every school, of course, has the faithful BBC Micro.
With two whole tapes full of programs on both sides, my pupils could not cover much of it in school time. We concentrated on the first program, called the diagnostic test.
This consists of forty multiple choice questions covering the full spectrum of physics work. It certainly seemed appropriate to the O level syllabus which I teach. If a pupil gets a question wrong, a hint is given. If the question still can't be solved, the answer is given.
At the end of the test, the pupil's performance is analysed. Areas of weakness are highlighted and a revision program is suggested. The verdict of my students was that this program was rather dull and needed a degree of dedication to work through. The analysis of their performance, however, was rated useful.
The next program on the first tape deals with relationships. If you think that sounds physical rather than physics, it really means equations.
In this section a number of graphs are drawn to show how one thing depends on another, such as volume and temperature. You then have to pick the correct relationship from a choice of four (volume is proportional to temperature).
A student who was really involved in revision would find this section useful but rather limited in approach.
The motion programs on side two of the first tape are very hard to understand, in fact I don't understand them myself. They are meant to cover velocity, speed, acceleration, force, energy, work, power and momentum. I can only recommend O level or CSE students to leave them well alone.
The program on ray optics is a good, tidy revision program. There is nothing startling about it though. It presents some information on reflection, refraction and eye defects. The problems which follow are neatly constructed, and even suggest that you should draw out ray diagrams on paper.
Turning to the second tape we come to the best program of the lot, on radio-activity. This topic is usually covered poorly in schools and little real practical work can be done. It simulates an experiment to detect the various forms of radiation. You have a source of unknown radiation and a Geiger counter.
These can be moved around the screen along with various blocking materials (paper, aluminium and lead) and a magnet. By reading the counter, with or without sound, it is possible to work out whether the source is emitting alpha, beta or gamma radiation. As an enhancement, you can use the information gained to work out decay products.
This particular program makes the user adopt investigative methods and is suitable for use in schools as well as by revising pupils. A multiple choice test on waves follows.
The help and hints are well put together and our revising pupil may well find them useful. The same could also be said of the two programs on electricity and magnetism. One is a multiple choice test, the other a lesson comparing the flow of electricity with that of water.
The last program is about heat. It is poor and the screen display is muddled - quite the weakest program in the package.
One criticism I have of the entire package is that
the programs drive the operator. It would all be better if users could have
some peace while thinking.
The system of entering responses is distinctly poor. My pupils complained that they got answers wrong because the text cursor moved on to the next possible response as they pressed <RETURN>.
There's a lot of program here to summarise. The first point is that you get your money's worth as far as the quantity is concerned. It's a pity that a couple of the programs are very poor, but the package as a whole is worthwhile for 16-year-old physics students. Certainly a number of mine are going to buy it now they've seen it.
Rog Frost, ELECTRON USER 3. 5