A&B Computing

Maps & Landscapes No. 1

Author: Des Thomas
Publisher: Chalksoft
Machine: BBC Model B

Published in A&B Computing 3.08

Maps & Landscapes No. 1 (Chalksoft)

This set of programs is the first in a series looking at the fundamentals of mapwork and map reading skills. The main aim of this set, which is intended mainly for the 8 - 13 age range, is "to help in the learning of grid references and conventional signs".

The main menu enables you to select from the three main sections available: Grid Menu, Conventional Signs Menu and Map Menu, each of which leads to a submenu. In the first option you can select from an explanation of the National Grid, or an explanation of four or six figure grid references followed by 10 or 20 questions. Generally, they provide a good demonstration of the use of the micro as an electronic blackboard, taking the user step by step through the process (although I've still no idea why they use letters as one way of defining the squares on the National Grid or how the pattern was established!). Up to three attempts are allowed for each question and marks are awarded according to which attempt is correct. The answer is demonstrated if the third attempt is wrong.

The second option considers the conventional OS signs under four headings: Roads and Railways, Tourist Information/Abbreviations, General Features, and Water and Relief. The signs are shown on screen and briefly described. I found some of the signs rather small and consequently the definition was not particularly good - no doubt this would be better on a higher resolution monitor. This is followed by a series of 10 or 20 (user's choice) multiple choice questions - each question consists of five signs from which the named feature must be chosen. Only one attempt is allowed for each questions — the delete key is disabled.

The Map Option offers six OS maps which bring together the lessons learnt in the previous two sections and each map features a different set of conventional symbols. The first three maps contain questions based on four-figure grid references, the last three, on six-figure references. There are 10 questions on maps 1,2,4 and 5 and 15 on maps 3 and 6. Two attempts at answering are allowed and help is given after mistakes. Estimating the six-figure references is quite tricky and some children might benefit from having a transparent grid placed over the screen in the early stages.

I found the selection of colour rather off putting in some cases, for instance, black text on a red background or garish yellow background behind some of the maps. The on-screen instructions, however, are clear and concise and render the accompanying documentation virtually superfluous.

This suite of programs provides little that cannot be done using an OS map and some banda sheets, but the presentation is far better than one could hope to achieve and, of course, there's no marking involved! Teachers of geography will find the demonstrations useful and individuals who have had difficulty in understanding the Grid Reference concept will find the programs a particularly helpful and sympathetic means of revising.

Des Thomas

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