Food for thought

John Galloway looks at a CD-Rom that gets children with special needs talking and writing about the things they like

ClickerVision is the outcome of a collaboration between two established names in education ICT: Crick and Espresso, which have both stamped their distinctive marks on the product.

The former has brought its knowledge of making the curriculum accessible to pupils with special needs, the latter its trademark high-quality multimedia content. The result is a media-rich resource with creative and engaging activities, flexible enough to be used on a whiteboard with a whole class, or on a single PC by small groups or individuals.

It all came about because Kevin McHenry, an ICT adviser in Northampton, was getting fed up with broadband. He was convinced it should offer a lot to pupils with special needs, but couldn't find anything suitable. So, he persuaded the local authority to put up the money, then approached two leading companies in the field to create the resources. The result, he says, has been a long time coming but is worth the wait, even if it isn't delivered online.

So far there are two CD-Roms, one on weather, the other on food. If the reaction is good more will follow. Each has various sources of information: text, graphs and, most important, good quality video clips.

At Kingsley School, in Kettering, they tried out the "What do you like?" section from the food CD-Rom (the CD also covers healthy eating and school meals). First, class teacher Kevin Latham passed around plates of fruit to taste, while Mandy Crawford, the ICT adviser for special schools, introduced some of the video content about who likes what.

Then the children offered their opinions in the "Do you like?" activity, which is open-ended, with three simple images on each screen - a graphic of food, and faces showing pleasure or disgust that said "Yum" or "Yuck" when clicked on.

The children weren't shy about talking or joining in - and the "What do you think?" section let them record their likes and dislikes under their name or photo - this could then be played back. Casey said: "Banana." Sommer said: "I like grapes." Dillon, who didn't try anything on his plate played along by stating: "I don't like fruit. Okay, now I do" - which made everyone laugh.

The software is built using Clicker5, even the "What is it?" activity, where each tap on the board adds a bit more to the jigsaw. It took three pieces of the first picture before the children could decide whether they were looking at an apple or a pear, but Casey recognised a banana straight away from the little bit of stalk that appeared. While all the graphics are good quality, the pictures are not always entirely obvious - but with a right click the speech support clears up queries.

The writing tasks use either the well-known method of clicking on words in a grid, pop-up lists, or an on-screen keyboard. A couple of clicks and it's time to choose again, this time a click on an image, a cabbage perhaps, and a choice of "I like" or "I don't like" for the children to write a sentence. When the children had finished, Crawford highlighted all they had done and had the computer read it out - which made everyone laugh again.

The lesson finished with the children recalling a classmate's choices. One thing they all enjoyed was the mixture of rich content and varied activities that ClickerVision had put on their learning menu. They will be coming back for more.

wClickerVision Crick Stand B38

A software blend of the best from Clicker5 and Espresso, using high-quality video sources for classroom investigations.

Two CD-Roms, Food and Weather Price: from pound;50 per title.

Fitness for purpose *****

Ease of use *****

Features *****

Quality ****

Value for money *****

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