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Dread-free presentation

Designed specifically for primary schools, Junior Multimedia Lab could be the answer to many a primary school teacher's prayers. Chris Drage put the software through its paces

By the end of key stage 2, pupils are expected to have completed at least one multimedia presentation. If this fills you with just a little dread, fear not, help is at hand with Sherston Software's Junior Multimedia Lab, which has been designed specifically for primary schools. With Junior Multimedia Lab (only Windows, CD-Rom), teachers and pupils can create multimedia presentations featuring speech, animation, movies, sounds, images and text with unprecedented ease.

The problem with most multimedia software is the time it takes the teacher to become familiar with it. However, Junior Multimedia Lab overcomes this neatly by including six easy-to-follow, curriculum-based tutorials, which clearly explain the main features of the program while providing a feel for the program's potential uses in the classroom. There are lots of resources included too, so even the most inexperienced can begin creating multimedia within minutes. All of the guides for Junior Multimedia Lab are available via the computer as they are installed with the program. The best way to get to grips with it is to start with "Getting Started", then look at the example tutorials, and the Tutorials Guide itself. Within a couple of hours you should be producing quality multimedia.

For those who are more confident, there are facilities to import images from scanners and digital cameras, as well as incorporating digital movies. Work can be saved in separate files that do not require the program to run, so saved work and presentations can be shown on any computer. Junior Multimedia Lab files can also run in a browser, so work can be published on the school's website.

Fundamental to any presentation is the target audience and this is where Sherston provides a useful "Copy Wizard" which allows you to save you work to run independently. This utility provides you with a range of options for how to copy your work, depending on what you want to do with it. For example:

* Copy an application to floppy disk(s) or another folder.

* Publish on the school's website.

* Create a setup program.

* Create an archive.

* Unpack an archive.

It even allows you to run presentation on machines that don't have Junior Multimedia Lab. The wizard guides you step-by-step through the whole process. It really couldn't be easier.

With the emphasis on using information and communications technology (ICT) to support teaching and learning, Junior Multimedia Lab should provide the answer to many schools' wishes - the ability to make good quality multimedia quickly and effortlessly. This is one software tool few schools can be without.

Finally, a few brief tips for budding multimedia "artistes".

In terms of introducing multimedia to your pupils, they too will need time to familiarise themselves with the software. Remember that very small projects are a good way to do this, such as producing one or two-page multimedia pieces.

Initially, it is useful for pupils to use multimedia presentations you have created yourself (eg multimedia quizzes on particular topics) as a set of instructions on a particular theme. This can stimulate ideas, as well as providing information in a multimedia format.

Creating multimedia is a bit like a Damp;T project, it is usually best designed on paper, listing resources needed etc. before starting to create anything. Make simple flow charts, particularly for non-linear presentations, to show how the pages link to each other. Use simple storyboards to plan out the contents of every page.

Junior Multimedia LabPrice: pound;59.95 (ex VAT) for a 1 CD Pack. Multi-packs and network versions are available.Tel: 01666 843200www.sherston.com

Suitability for purpose ***** Ease of use ***** Value for money ****

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