Michael Thorn reports
Shoo Fly Connected Learning Resource: Angel Boy
Animated books and support activities for interactive whiteboard, plus teacher's handbook
Single user pound;225; Site licence pound;345; For 10-plus with transition project for 11 to 13-year-olds
Sales enquiries: Ramesys 0191 519 1800
Other enquiries: 08451 217788
It is hard to see how any teacher who appreciates the richness and diversity in picture-book illustration can be prepared to accept some of the garish crudity of the artwork associated with most software packages.
Why do so few of our immensely talented illustrators get involved in creating software? Is it out of fear of the medium? Out of loyalty to the printed book? Or is it because their agents and publishers have been too unimaginative or blinkered to see the potential for on-screen illustrated storytelling?
When I first heard of Shoo Fly Publishing, I thought it must be something to do with Shoo Rayner, one of the only published children's illustrators working for the screen, as well as for the printed page.
However, Rayner (www.shoo-rayner.co.uk) has no connection with Shoo Fly.
The founder and creative director is Anne Curtis, a former teacher (primary and secondary) and education adviser who continues to work in schools and train teachers on how visual and physical experiences support language development. She founded Shoo Fly to create animated on-screen texts that would allow children and teachers to interact and engage with them in ways which are not possible with a book.
This software package is built around four stories, with three of them written by Anne: Angel Boy, a poignant story about bullying; Gothic Tale, a narrative poem; and Seal Skull, a gothic tale based on the Scottish legend of the selkie -a mythological half-man, half-seal creature - for which Shoo Fly travelled to an island off Western Argyll to record the young boy narrator and his family.
Anne's writing style is serviceable, and is extremely well supported by the illustrator, Chris Corner. Indeed, it is Chris's artwork which makes this such a high-quality resource. As for the teacher's handbook, I don't think I have ever seen one so well produced and designed.
In addition to the four story animations (which can be run from the CD or installed on the hard drive of your computer), the main CD-Rom is a treasure trove of resource material, including support activities specially designed for whiteboards. These are helpfully provided in four formats - SmartBoard, Promethean, PowerPoint and Adobe pdf. Other resources include image files and a separate audio CD.
The handbook also has subject-specific sections with, for example, good ideas for related work in RE and geography. The stories are pitched at Years 5 and 6P5 and 6, and there is also a transition project, built around the bullying story.
A site licence costs pound;345 - that's the equivalent of three dozen hardback picture books. But for most schools it won't be a choice between software and books. It will be a choice between this software and that software, with eLearning credits paying the bill.
I strongly recommend you put Angel Boy right at the top of that eLearning shopping list Michael Thorn is deputy head of Hawkes Farm Primary in Hailsham, East Sussex