With exams on the horizon, Crash Course takes a look at the Vision range of revision software from DISNEY. These are programs which have specially prepared by educational advisors and, before launch, were tested by classroom teachers in a series of trials. The nine subjects are deliberately aimed at students who wish to improve their knowledge and expertise, by continual interactive dialogue in subject terminology, techniques and understanding. As such, the software is ideal for individual use, or by small groups of students in the classroom discussing the material as it is presented. The programs can also be used as a 'library' facility for students working on modules of their choice, and also as an activity for small groups at an appropriate stage in their course of study.
All of the packages are constructed in the same way: each of the 29 units of software uses a single program, with the screen and user interaction being driven via individual data sets developed for each unit and subject. When the main program has loaded, the menu offers up to six topics which are then loaded in sequence. Each topic consists of a group of ten questions, some requiring True/False or Yes/No responses while others provide a multi-choice option. Some questions automatically provide hints or help, while others offer you a choice of clues, and most questions allow at least two attempts before the correct response is displayed. A particularly useful feature is that extra information is always displayed at the foot of the screen, whether or not the correct answer has been given. The scoring system is also common to all of the packages: correct answers are awarded a score, and graded according to whether they were achieved first time or after prompting - the score is displayed automatically on completion of a topic.
For programs such as 'French', where language accents are required, a keystrip is provided to correspond to the number keys. The User's Guide which comes with each package lists the various topics covered and gives a rating for A to C, with A being the most difficult. This helps the teacher to select the various sections for specific classes. A space is also provided for the teacher to insert his own tape counter to simplify the subsequent finding of any particular topic. All of the packages are aimed at reinforcing knowledge already acquired, rather than teaching from scratch, thought the screen notes do give additional pieces of relevant information. No screen graphics are used, with any necessary diagrams being included in the User's Guide.
In addition to the programs reviewed here, Vision also covers Chemistry, Physics, German, History and Information Processing. The packages are available from DISNEY, 6 Pilkington Avenue, Sutton Coldfield, B&" 1LA. The program prices are - French £11.45, Biology £11.80, Geography £12.20 and Computer Science £12.80.
This package is the first of two currently available, and covers Time, Shopping and Travel. The first cassette begins with simple arithmetic in which a sum written out in French must be answered correctly. Moving on from this through Dates and Times, where multi-choice questions are used, a section on Weather gives French statements such as 'Quand il pleut, on a beoin d'un parapluie', which must then be said to be True or False. After the answer has been given, the sentence is translated into English at the foot of the screen, and a brief note is also given, eg 'pleuvoir - to rain, il pleuvra - future tense'. The last section on side one of the first cassette covers the reading of a railway timetable and for this the user has to revert to the timetable printed in the User Guide.
The second side gives five short programs on various aspects of shopping: Items of shopping, Types of shops, Shop signs, Shop advertisements and Going shopping. A whole range of vocabulary is reinforced or introduced in this section, and again, the notes at the foot of the screen are particularly helpful. The second cassette covers Travel on side one, and in Town on side two. As no graphics are used in any of the packages, the student is referred to certain figures in the User's Guide - for instance, a station plan must be consulted in order to answer questions about where in a railway station you would hear certain statements.
What impressed me most about this package was the fact that the vocabulary and situations dealt with, are those which a visitor to France would probably encounter. A student would not only test his present knowledge, but would also build up more knowledge through the additional notes. French Unit Two, covers the topics of Leisure and Meeting People. These packages could be used with a fairly wide age group, from those beginning the study of French, to more advanced students.
As with the French packages, there are two units of Biology available. Unit one covers the human senses and digestion, while the second unit goes on to deal with major systems and human anatomy. No attempt is made to use screen graphics in the programs, but a number of diagrams are included in the User's Guide.
The first cassette in Unit 1 looks firstly at the Eyes and Ears, and then the Skin and Nervous System. Each of these sections involves the correct labelling of the diagrams in the guide, and follows this with a range of multi-choice and True/False questions.
The second cassette adopts the Anatomy of Digestion and Digestive Processes. The topics, are covered in great depth, and the teacher would have to be selective concerning which sections are suitable for various age groups of pupils. To help with this, the summary of topics in the guide grades each one from A to C, with A once again being the most difficult. Although the package is said to be suitable for use with pupils from the age of 11, the very detailed nature of the content is unlikely to be relevant for such a young age group, and the absence of screen graphics tends to make the content rather dry. Certainly though, older students will find the programs a very useful aid for home study, and teachers will be able to use them to reinforce their teaching. The extra informative text means that a wealth of information alp each of the sections is the dent to take detailed notes of these 'tree' facts. The scores sing a summary of mores on all the sections attempted, are useful in helping students to monitor their own progress. Biology is a comprehensive package, which lends itself to flexible use in both the classroom and in the home situation.
Four separate packages are available for Geography, covering the Physical, Economic, Urban and Recreational aspects of the subject. Unit one, Physical Geography, begins with a detailed study of Time, Earth and Atmosphere. This focuses on the planet Earth, the geological column and atmospheric processes, and then moves onto soils, vegetation, biomes, the influence of man, and famous people. Two Soils and Vegetation tables are provided in the User's Guide, giving short lists of the technical terms which the user will need to know. In the section on soils, for example, terms such as azonal, eluvial, leaching and regolith are used, while the vegetation topic assumes knowledge of hydrophytes, megatherms and zerophytes. In each of these topics, a description appears on screen and the student must use the table to type in the word or phrase which fits the description: for example, a soil order strongly influenced by the climatic conditions of an area - Zonal. Both Soils and Vegetation are given an A grading, to mean that they are the most difficult, but topics are the most difficult, but topics graded C - the planet Earth, the geological column and the influence of man - are not pitched at such a high level, and would be of more use in dealing with younger students.
The second cassette deals with hydrology, glaciations and underground water, and then goes on to cover landscapes - including coasts and deserts. In glaciation, students are given a piece of information, and they then must guess the landscape feature. If an incorrect answer is given, up to four new pieces of information are supplied by the computer, but the user can refer to the table in the Guide where landscape features such as accumulation, drumlin, moraine, and pleistocent are listed.
The package also contains a Glossary of Terms, but unfortunately not all the terns are listed. I had to refer to a dictionary to find out the meaning of pleistocene! Used in classroom, however, this package would provide a useful reinforcement aid for teaching of Geography - particularly older students.
This package on Hardware and Applications is the first unit of four. The others cover Data Processing and Communications, Fundamental Concepts, and Programming and Analysis. With Computer Science now being offered in most secondary schools, a number of educational programs have been appearing on the market, and this particular range is certainly the most comprehensive I have seen. The first cassette with the history and development of computers and computer languages and the user has to respond correctly to the following type of question: "Enter the name of the language which best fits the Description: Developed initially for teaching, but now a popular micro computer language." I'm sure you all know the answer - Basic- but the note which then appears at the foot of the screen gives you the additional piece of information that BASIC was developed around 1965 at Dartmouth College in the USA. It was these notes that I found particularly useful and interesting in this program. True/False responses are also made use at, such as in this example from the section on Communications: "Teletext and Viewdata systems were made available in 1977 - True or False?" The note again gives more details naming Ceefax from the BBC, Oracle from ITV and Prestel from the PO. Going onto the section on General Terminology, the student is asked questions on Input/Output, Memory and Communications, General Abbreviations: Processing, and General Computing Terms.
The second cassette deals in more detail with Input and Output as two separate topics, and covers terminology for each, as well as issues such as data capture and graphical displays. Most of the topics have a B grading, with only three out of twenty being classed as A, most difficult. Together the four separate packages on Computer Science give a very thorough grounding in all aspects of the topic, and would be useful not just for students preparing for an examination, but for anyone wishing to build up his knowledge in this particular field. I certainly gleaned all sorts of information merely by working through this first unit.
: kept as simple as possible, with a keyboard overlay being provided for use with the French programKeyboard response
: none, diagrams and tables are included in the User's GuideUse of colour