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Simply clever

An interactive town and a concept-map program are the latest to show how simple ideas can create rich work, says John Galloway

The ideas factory that is 2Simple continues to churn out innovative programs, sometimes by doing familiar things another way. Its latest offerings are quite different, but keep to the house style and feel.

Simple City could be described as an electronic version of Fuzzy Felt, with added bells and whistles. But it is much more than that.

The opening screen is a town with 10 places to visit, including a farm, a doctor, a garage and a garden centre. The sections have video clips of adults and children talking about each place to stimulate discussion, Each area has follow-up activities, where children can create their own versions and add captions or numbers.

Effects are kept to a minimum, but those there are added to the overall enjoyment. Ducks waddle and dogs lope around the park, and everything scales to size, so as you move objects towards the horizon they get smaller. When sorting rubbish at the recycling bank, there are sound effects. At the zoo, a voice-over says the name as each animal is picked up, and another activity asks for the birds or the grey animals to be put together. This is a lovely program for stimulating language and creativity, and targeting early learning goals.

The other arrival, 2Connect, is a take on concept mapping. To start, click on the screen and type. Move the cursor and type again, and the two boxes automatically link up. Otherwise, links are made and broken by dragging boxes across each other, and arrow heads can be added to lines to show a hierarchy. One idea can have many off-shoots, but they can't be linked.

However, this may help keep things simple.

Every point can be colour-coded or have a drawing or clipart added, and written or spoken notes can be attached. The "Present my ideas" option plays back the sequence the concept map was built in.

The program can be run over a network, so any number of pupils can contribute at once, enabling collaboration while recording individual contributions. At all times, you can pull up a notepad to capture thoughts about the overall exercise.

Once a visual representation of ideas has been created, it can be linked to other programs. With a word processor such as Word, it becomes a word bank.

With 2Simple's 2Create, it generates a dynamic presentation, with links and buttons in place. In 2Create a Story, the map of ideas becomes an interactive book.

Easy to use, with sophisticated outputs, this is creative software in every sense.

Simple City

On-screen simulation of a community Price: from pound;39

Fitness for purpose ***** Ease of use ***** Features ***** Quality ***** Value for money *****

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