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Methodology

On learning that we had been selected to take part in SIP we then had to face the very real task of looking at how we would make our CD ROM. A co-ordinating group of teachers from many areas of the school curriculum was established. This group met once a week for about 40 minutes to plan the work and to keep things progressing. Next step was to set up an advisory group of people related to the school who were willing to help with support and advice on how to tackle and carry out the project. Our advisory group consisted of people from very diverse backgrounds .

This group met several times and was extremely important in the early, developmental stages. The core group spent the first six months talking about our aims and expectations for the project. This time was extremely well spent even though we often felt that we should have had more obvious progress made. We needed to answer to vital questions:

1. Who is going to use this CD? and 2. How is it going to be used? If the CD is to be used by the teacher in front of the whole class then the content and structure would need to be compiled and presented in a very different way than if the CD was to be used by individuals. We decided to design the CD for individual use. We wanted this to something the student could use to learn from at their own pace - maybe learn new material or review and revise previously seen material. In order to make it more than information coming "at" a student we wanted to make it interactive so that the student became an active participant in their own learning and also in control of the pace and order of their studies.

Having decided who would use the CD and how we then needed to look at what material was to be included on the CD. The science teachers were asked for their opinions as to what material was most appropriate for use at first year level and students were surveyed. The students were asked to complete a questionnaire about their experiences in science in school - what they liked best/least, why they kept up/dropped science, who influenced you most and are you happy with your choice? A mixed group of students were then brought together and interviewed so we could follow up and tease out some of the ideas that had been expressed. Many students felt that science, while some of it is interesting it is also very difficult. The language was quite off-putting, especially for the weaker students. The majority of students we spoke to said they really enjoyed doing experiments but that there weren't enough of them. Many students stated a preference for particular topics but the preference varied from individual to individual.

Following exhaustive discussion we finally drew up a set of rules that we felt should apply to all topics selected for further development. These three rules were: (i) the CD should stimulate the interest of students (ii) it should make science less daunting - make it real and practical and (iii) it should make science more accessible to all students regardless of academic ability. A short list of topics suitable for inclusion in the CD ROM was then compiled.

This list included:

1. Magnetism - poles of a magnet, attraction and repulsion, magnetic field, uses of magnets 2. Energy - forms of energy, renewable and non-renewable, wise use of limited resources 3. Light - as a form of energy, colours in white light, Newton's disk, mixing colours (maybe link with colour separation) 4. Separation Techniques - filtration, evaporation, distillation, sublimation and chromatography 5. Atoms - structure, chemical and physical and chemical changes, reactions showing visible changes, idea of bonding 6. Acids and Bases - definitions and examples, naturally occurring, indicators, neutralisation reactions 7. Ecology - habitat studies - possibility of plant structure or what ever happens to arise during field study 8. The Heart - structure, how it works and dissection 9. Food Types and Tests - healthy diet components, Benedict's test, Biuret test, starch test and test for fats 10. Introduction to astronomy -planets and the recent eclipse. Each science teacher agreed to lead a group of students and one non-science teacher or co-ordinating group member and take one topic from the list. This meant that six topics were selected from the above list.

Student volunteers were sought from all year groups in the school to get involved in the various aspects of designing and compiling the CD. There were approximately sixty volunteers in total of which about forty were involved from beginning to end. The next step was to decide the platform that would support our material. We had no knowledge of the type of packages that could be used for such a task, however training became available in the use of Hyperstudio as a multi-media authoring package. Other, more sophisticated packages such as Illuminatis and Macromedia were mentioned later on but no training was apparently available. We decided to use Hyperstudio and found that we could become reasonably proficient quite quickly. Two teachers,became tutors in Hyperstudio and about 14 other teachers completed a course in the use of Hyperstudio. We then ran a course for interested students and so the skills were passed on quite quickly. A team of students and teachers lead by worked on a template that would be used by all teams so that the font and style would be standardised even though different teams were working on different topics.

Work, at this stage progressed very rapidly, and soon we were at the end of the school year.

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