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Building blocks for urban renewal

Chris Drage recommends software that gives pupils the tools to execute their own designs Technology and Design CD-Rom for Acorn RiscOS computers, Pounds 40 (requires My World 2, Pounds 34) Northwest SEMERC, 1 Broadbent Road, Watersheddings, Oldham, OL1 4HU.

This CD-Rom allows you to explore the fictional town of Skegton, an urban area in the north of England, finding opportunities to design anything from a chair to a house as you go along. You can look around by using photographs and film clips, and you will come across many technology and design situations as you go. If you happen to see something in a photograph or film clip that gives you a good idea, there is a section for planning your own projects and for keeping a record of what you are doing.

My World 2 is not included in the package and it is advisable to install it on your hard disc, from where it will control the CD-Rom at optimum speed. My World 2 now has additional features and works more fluidly: you can pick up objects on screen, move them round on a variety of backdrops, each piece falling neatly into alignment when dropped into position. Unwanted objects can be dropped into the rubbish bin and text added if required. Work can be saved as a Draw file andor printed. The whole aim has been to keep things simple. It makes setting up a working discdirectory on a particular subject very easy. Once this is done, the directory works like any other My World 2 support disc: you drag the title file on to the opening screen. From then on you are guided from the main menu which sets the scene with a map, photos and text.

The menu offers six areas of the fictional Skegton to explore: environment, community, recreation, work, school and home. Each section has its own slide show, film clips, design briefs and notebook. Using the CD is made simple by the sensible tools. If you do get "lost" then there's always a Start icon which returns you to the beginning. The movies and still clips are included to provide a believable context for each of the suggested design briefs. These range from designing a kite, improving a doctor's waiting room, laying out a site for road works, designing a house or an item of furniture and inventing a new drink.

Designing is done in the typical My World 2 fashion, with objects assembled on a screen and "snapped" into place. These range from assembling computer models, and printing out in order to build real models, to planning on an isometric grid and designing layouts in plan and elevation views. A wide range of choices is offered on most screens, so children have to select carefully and sensibly.

A written design can be created via the program's notebook, which presents a pool of both words and pictures of tools and construction items commonly used in the classroom. It's here perhaps that the My World 2 screen tools really come into their own, as children resize, flip and rotate words and objects to create their design brief. With only limited time available, you could even print out a hard copy of all the objects and captions for some children to cut-and-paste into their topic work. It is very versatile. The notebook also has a second function to create an evaluation sheet (opportunities for self-assessment).

Helen Melhuish, the program's author, is to be congratulated for this excellent design and technology resource, which, thanks to its versatility, can be used by all key stage 2 pupils. The author rightly emphasises that the CD-Rom is not an end in itself, and that the activities should not be used in isolation. In fact it gives practical support for pupils to set about making the real objects in the classroom.

This CD encourages children to think about technology and design in everyday life and to make comparisons. In this manner it can be used to support other areas of the curriculum, geography for example, and generally supports the rationale that IT should apply to all areas of the curriculum and not be used in isolation. Using sound, movie clips and photographic stills to set the scene, Technology and Design transcends the normal role of multimedia presentation by providing a realistic stimulus to inspire further learning both at or away from the computer.

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