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In search of links

Debbie Davies looks at ways to match electronic content to the national curriculum.

Teachers visiting the multimedia areas at the show will want to know why matching national curriculum units to useful websites and software programs is such a headache-inducing task.

A simple search facility to match QCA schemes of work to the best websites and software is needed. Nothing at the Education Show provides this, but teachers may find some answers at the new Multimedia in Practice feature.

Here you can try out software and use pre-selected websites. TEEM, the company that evaluates publishers' multimedia resources for use in the classroom, hopes to build a database of evaluations for teachers, by teachers.

Publishers have to stump up almost pound;300 for inclusion in the TEEM database, which rules out some interesting resources, so teachers will still need their own search and evaluation skills, not least when they visit the software centre near the MIP area.

The acid test when trying software is how engaging and informative it is. Interactivity should be meaningful and the content well organised.

Teachers will have to consider scope, accuracy and freedom from bias. Content which leans towards one view may have to be balanced by other materials. Vocabulary should be suitable and it should address a range of abilities. Last, and by no means least for schools with PC networks, the software needs to run on any network configuration. Armed with this checklist, the Software Centre offers plenty for teachers.

There are several small, UK-based software companies, including Complete Primary Resources (CPR) set up by a primary head with the slogan "Gives teachers back their lives".

Make sure you visit the QCA and DfEE Standards websites before coming to the show, as much of what CPR offers at a hefty price is freely available onthe web.

The CPR adds lots of templates (written in Microsoft Word) for assessments and report writing, lesson plans and record keeping that they claim teachers will need to "cross the threshold" and presenting it on one CD-Rom disk is convenient. CPR's package covers similar ground to The Skills Factory which won a BETT Award earlier this year for its primary literacy and numeracy management programs. Developed by Kirklees LEA for its primary schools, Literacy and Numeracy Online boasts 10,000 users. Teachers will be interested in the growing bank of lesson plans published by users, for which teachers taking part in the scheme can earn royalties.

Schools using Crick literacy software will be interested in add- on applications to Clicker 4.

Household names exhibiting include Cadbury, (Cadbury World and Learning Zone) which is showing Maths in the Factory, a new website for KS2; WWF, where you can sign up secondary students to Fish on the Line, a forthcoming online debate running from 30th April to 25th May on declining fish stocks; and English Heritage's online computerised booking service.

There is also plenty of ICT outside the software centre. BECTA is showing teachers its Educational Software Database service at the BESA stand.

This lists well over 3,000 curriculum programs, covering pre-school to further education markets and can be searched by subject area, age or key stage.

The database has been updated to include programs for download over the web as well as CDDVD based products, and will cover utilities and administration tools.

Actis is an experienced author of interactive educational tools, and its work is a reminder of how engaging multimedia tools can be.

Its track record is cross-curricular, with a particular strength in secondary and higher English and history tools.Standsp38sw47

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