Resource Material for the IT PGCE:
which database?

On this page you will find background information to an introductory 'database' session where we consider the relative advantages of two applications found in schools.

In preparation for this session and the two which immediately follow it, you should read the document "Databases in schools - some issues and approaches" which was written by Graham Warner.
Learning objectives About this session Products of the session
At the Institute    
Task Timetable Links to other sessions
In the classroom    
Misconceptions Classroom examples Teaching point
Other Resources    
DfEE Schemes of work Software links and tutorials Books/Papers


Learning objectives

The learning objectives for this session are that by the end of it you should:

  1. know the different purposes for which 'constructing a database' can be used;
  2. understand the importance of evaluating software packages against intended learning outcomes;
  3. be able to evaluate common database software against a range of intended learning outcomes.

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About this session

There are numerous reasons why one would use database software in schools, e.g.
  1. To teach technical skills in using software.
  2. To teach about their use in vocational and other outside contexts.
  3. To help learners to use data retrieval systems for everyday practical uses.
  4. To equip learners to use software in other contexts.
  5. To understand the concepts associated with databases.
  6. To develop learners’ thinking – cognitive development.

In this session your task is to evaluate two different database packages for their suitability against some of these criteria.

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Products of the session

This is the index to your evaluations of the two software packages.

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At the Institute

The task

The task is to evaluate the suitability of two database applications - Access and Information Workshop - for different purposes.

You need to list the purposes for which you might wish to use the software - the introduction and list above will help with this - and then think through (and write down) the pros and cons of both software packages against each of your criteria.

The assumption is that you are familiar enough with Access to know the ease with which it can be used for the variety of purposes you are considering - but that you will need to open Information Workshop and use it to build a database before you can properly evaluate it.

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The timetable

9:30-9:45 Introduction
9:45-10:30 Evaluating software in pairs
10:30-11:00 Plenary discussion

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Links to other sessions

This session is designed to form the basis for the one which immediately succeeds it in which you will write lesson plans for the teaching of database-related concepts to pupils in KS3 and 4. It also links strongly to the session on 'Using ICT in the teaching and learning of IT ' in which the suitability of different software packages to help develop capability more generally is discussed.

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In the classroom


Pupils' misconceptions regarding database related concepts can be found on the page for "Planning 'finding out' lessons at KS 3 and 4".

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Classroom examples

If the only database you have used is Access, you may find the booklet Afroja Rahman produced to introduce her class to PinPoint useful - not least in letting you compare the relative ease of setting up simple systems in both applications.

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Teaching point

In this session - like many others, you have worked in groups. The IT PGCE cohort, like most classrooms, contains people of differing abilities. How are such classes best grouped? What are the advantages and disadvantages of different ability groupings? What ways are these to ensure that pupils get the help that they need (differentiation by support)?

Groupings: Two extremes are to group pupils on a mixed or similar ability pattern.

Mixed ability groupings: many people feel that these are inherently 'more fair' than grouping by ability. There is also a belief that in mixed ability groupings the less able benefit from the expertise of the more able and the more able benefit from having to explain things to the less able. However, in practice what often happens is that different members of the group are allocated different kinds of task so that the less able may spend their time copy-typing while the more able plan the database.

Similar ability groupings: in these there is often less of the task differentiation mentioned above and hence more true cooperative working. However the different groups will almost certainly need to be set different tasks or will produce very different products from the same task and (in some cases) this may be undesirable.

My belief is that there is not one 'best way' and that during your PTE you try a variety of forms of groupings to develop your understanding of the circumstances in which each form of ability grouping is appropriate.

Support: In addition to any printed or on-line materials, pupils have two other main sources of support - themselves and the teacher. Two ways in which a teacher can ensure that s/he gives help where it is needed are:

Moving around the classroom in a regular pattern. This has the advantage of reducing pupils movement and of being easy to manage. It has the disadvantage that the order in which pupils are seen by the teacher bears no relationship to the order in which they asked for help - and some pupils may think this unfair.

Having a 'ticketing' system. Some teachers use a ticketing system similar to that employed in supermarkets - when pupils need help they take the top ticket from a book on the teacher's desk and the teacher simply deals with each pupil in order. This has the advantage that it is transparently fair but the disadvantage that it involves substantial pupil movement, which you may not be happy with until your classroom skills are better developed than at present.

You could try both of these - the important thing is to have a system which is understood by the pupils and not to leave pupils for a long time with their hands in the air (or sitting doing nothing) because they need help - they are not learning and are likely to cause trouble.

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Other Resources

The DfEE Schemes of Work

You should look at the following units of the DfEE schemes of work:

Key Stage 2: unit 3C, Introduction to databases; unit 4C, Branching databases; unit 5B, Analysing data and asking questions;

Key Stage 3: unit 5 Data : designing structure, capturing and presenting data; unit 11 Data : use and misuse.

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David Squires and Anne McDougall's book 'Choosing and using educational software : a teacher's guide' (IoE library reference Loz SQU).

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This page is maintained by Tim Brosnan. Please send any comments to:
Last updated on 15th October 2001 .