(This review was originally featured on the BPS Research Digest blog back in 2011. I’ve updated and revised it here).
While I have been aware of products offered by Uniview for some time and have purchased a number of their DVD’s, I have tended to produce my own resources and lesson activities. The idea of a ‘Psychology lesson in a box’, therefore, was immediately appealing and offered the prospect of reducing a teacher’s workload by offering everything that was needed for an entire lesson. The kit is certainly packed with ‘stuff’ (some more useful than others) and briefly comprises: an animated neuroscience DVD illustrating the brain’s response to nicotine, cocaine and marijuana; a brain jelly mould (presumably for making jelly in the shape of a brain); a shower cap activity kit (more later); two bags of jelly brain sweets; 12 badges displaying a brain with the caption ‘are you using yours?’; 6 brain function magnets; 3 mini neuron soft toys; 12 metal puzzles; a stopwatch; a ruler and finally a ‘scrap sack’ for an echo-location activity.
The twenty-five minute DVD (individual price £40) is very well produced – although the American narrator may confuse some students with his pronunciation of some key terms – and it includes some effective animations illustrating the synapse and neurotransmitter release. The brain jelly mould is a rather curious thing and is perhaps best filled with plaster or silicone rather than jelly. The shower cap activity kit is another curiosity. In the past I have used a baseball cap and post-it notes to carry out this activity rather than a bright pink shower cap with magnetic laminated cards. The premise is quite simple and involves students placing the cards on the appropriate part of the cap to represent the likes of localisation and brain damage. I suspect that getting one of my male students to sit with a bright pink shower cap on his head may prove problematic – but would at least liven up the lesson.
The remainder of the kit, for me, has limited appeal. Some schools have rules about handing out sweets to pupils so the jelly brain sweets could be a non-starter and I know that many of my own sixth formers would recoil at the prospect of having to wear a badge. The neuron soft toys are certainly fun and informative but students could probably do with a more detailed three-dimensional representation of a brain cell – a colleague of mine would get students to make their own three dimensional microbes which, I suspect, had a bigger impact on them.
The kit also comes with a useful CD of PowerPoint presentations and, although many teachers prefer to create their own, these can be easily adapted to suit different student cohorts. Non-specialists could certainly benefit from pre-designed slides but I often find them too wordy to engage students fully. The ones in the kit are better than some and don’t fall into the same ‘death by PowerPoint’ scenario seen with other resources.
This certainly represents value in a monetary sense, but perhaps only because teaching resources remain so expensive. Unfortunately, much of the kit would go unused in my classroom due to the uncertainly surrounding exactly what my students would learn from them. Nevertheless, the kit is fun and would certainly appeal to teachers wishing to wind down on a Friday afternoon.
The AS/A2 Biopsychology PsyKit from Uniview Worldwide. Price £49 (excl. VAT)