Focus Education Software is a Software company that has created
great science resources for middle school and high school students.
My boys and I had a hard time deciding which resource to choose.
After considering Metals, Design, Mechanical Toys, and Fairground
Rides, we eventually settled on Mechanisms which we used as a semester-long
course in Physics.
The design is deceptively simplistic; plain, even. It is not a
flashy program and at first glance convinced me it would be a boring
and uninteresting program. However, the simple design eliminates
distraction and provides brief but effective lessons. Each lesson
took no more than 10 minutes to complete, and my students walked
away remembering what they learned. A test follows each lesson,
and it is equally brief and simple.
The lessons in mechanisms included:
- Gear Systems
- Ratchet and Pawl
- Pulley Systems
- Sprockets and Chain
- Lifting Systems
- Cams and Followers
- Crank and Slider
- Screw Threads
A reference section at the end also covers the topics:
- What is a Mechanism?
- Mechanical Advantage
- Velocity ratio
- Shafts and couplings
- Bearings and lubrication
- Clutches and brakes
- Inclined plane
These do not include tests for the reference topics.
Each class is broken down into subtopics and explains each topic
through text, pictures, video clips, and very basic but quite efficient
animation. For example, the first lesson is Motion and it includes
the four topics of Rotary, Oscillating, Linear, and Reciprocating
motion. Under the Rotary heading, students read a very brief text
(two sentences) describing what rotary motion is, and then they
watch two clips demonstrating rotary motion: a 4-second video of
a wind farm and a 6-second video of a Ferris wheel. Next is a repeating
animation of a merry-go-round. The basic format remains the same
for every subject covered. It is basic to the extreme, but lessons
are efficiently taught and learned.
Once all of the four topics are read and observed, students can
take a test with 10 questions to show whether or not they understand
the concepts taught. I prefer to have them test immediately after
studying, to show that they learned the material, and then testing
again the next day to show that the lessons stuck with them. The
test questions get shuffled out of order every time the student
tests, so they won't accidentally memorize an order of answers,
but will show whether or not they really know the answers.
The only downside I noticed with this program is that there is
still some minor need for editing. In two different subjects, the
tests contained questions that were not at all covered in the material.
However, I brought it to the attention of the company and they
quickly got back to me with assurance that it would be fixed. I
appreciated the quality of their customer service.
It is a bit pricey, considering that it is not a fully comprehensive
physics course. It is listed as being £29.95, which comes
out to $46.42. If I had a budget big enough for it, I would certainly
include more of Focus Software classes in our school year. If only
all of our classes could so quickly and simply get straight to
the point and leave such a lasting impression!