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Soft choices

History, art and ICT- Dinah Starkey, Julie Yaxley and Pam Turnbull make selecting software simple

Heinemann Explore History Starter pack

Price: pound;97 + VAT (Six pupil books, 1 Teacher's Guide, 1 CD-Rom plus limited access to website)

Full website access available www.heinemannexplore.com Tel: 01865 888020

The Heinemann primary history series has always been popular. Now they've updated it to take account of recent developments in the classroom. The new package, Explore History, is aimed at key stage 2 and follows the QCA schemes of work.

Heinemann has played it safe. It has stuck to the most popular options, for example going for Ancient Egypt, rather than the Aztecs, and the inevitable photocopiables reflect the requirements of the schemes of work with a fidelity that can be a little stodgy, with a heavy reliance on lists of statements for children to sequence, prioritise or cut up and stick in their history books.

So far, so predictable. What makes the series special are the opportunities for ICT. Alongside the print resources there's a CD-Rom for each study unit and purchasers have access to a very comprehensive website. This enables the teacher to download images, potted biographies, gobbets of first-hand source material and many more useful goodies.

The strongest feature is the interactive section. Chunks of text can be downloaded and manipulated by pupils in a way which really does support work on ICT. The range of material is wide and provides teachers with ample opportunities to pick and mix the elements to a particular teaching style. And the technology really is idiot proof.

Recommended, but you'll have to add the sparkle yourself. DS

WordWorks By Patricia Harrison and Papia Sarkar Folens Price: Starter Pack (15 Pupil Books, Teacher File, CD and site licence) pound;199, Poster Pack, pound;29.95 Tel: 0870 609 1235 Email: folens@folens.com www.folens.com

This is part of Folens' ICT programme for seven to 13-year-olds which also includes Excelworks and PowerPointWorks. Each title consists of a spiral bound Pupil Book, Teacher File, CD-Rom and stunning Poster Pack.

The colourful, clearly laid out Pupil Book focuses on the 50 most relevant word functions contained in Word 2000 and provides step-by-step instructions on how to perform them. The work is progressive, which means ideally children should work through the book from beginning to end. If you don't have time for this or are using the book to complement another scheme, for example QCA, you may find that children are told to open a previously created file.

This doesn't have to be a problem, however, as the accompanying CD-Rom contains on-screen activities for almost all the functions which could be used instead. The Teacher File provides help with basic skills which pupils may need before tackling the Pupil Book - such as keyboard and mouse functions - along with complementary photocopiable information sheets and pupil tasks which could also be used to develop the teacher's basic ICT skills.

The CD-Rom also provides ClipArt, Reinforcement Tasks and Screenshots (which could be laminated). All in all, a well thought out and useful program. JY

Granada Logo Granada Learning Price: pound;49 for a single user, plus pound;10 each for additional users (plus VAT) Tel: 0161 827 2887 Email: info@granada-learning.com www.granada-learning.com

Granada Logo uses a progressive approach (via levels) and standard Logo commands, making it a great choice if you are teaching QCA Unit 4E: Modelling effects on screen, or if you wish to use a screen turtle to extend work during 2D "Routes: controlling a floor turtle".

It provides a good selection of activities, turtles - such as waiter, bee and spaceship - and backgrounds - such as restaurant, flowers and planets - which will motivate children to experiment with the program. There is also some useful help in the form of an on-screen ruler and protractor.

There are five levels. At the easiest, suitable for key stage 1, the turtle is controlled by clicking on arrows which move or rotate the turtle. Further levels introduce a Logo command window accompanied by a numerical keypad. Some of the higher levels also include a history window which shows all the commands entered by the children and an easy-to-use procedure editor which allows them to record and recall instructions for commonly used shapes. JY

At the Doctor'sVet'sCafe SEMERCGranada Learning Price: Each title costs pound;29 for a single user, plus pound;10 each for additional users (plus VAT) Tel: 0161 827 2887 Email: info@granada-learning.com www.granada-learning.com

This wonderful series of CD-Roms is designed to support role-play in the foundation stage. They help children make choices during visits to the vet's, the doctor's or the cafe. The choices are recorded and can be printed out at the end of the visit - either as a bill or a prescription.

All the CD-Roms contain clear, brightly coloured graphics and a catchy theme tune which children will love. We're currently using "At the Cafe" in my classroom - we chose the "Pizza Restaurant" option and built a role-play area around the computer workstation. We also decided to make props to complement the different choices presented to the children on the screen. So far we have drinks of different sizes and plans to make square pizzas.

Teachers could integrate the CD-Roms into their own plans or refer to the medium-term plans which show how to incorporate all six areas of learning. The many activity sheets are also extremely useful. My only reservation is that some of the numeracy tasks may be too hard for young children, although the program offers some flexibility. JY

Fresco Blackcat Ages: 5-16 Price: pound;49 for a single-user, pound;10 for extra users Tel: 0161 827 2927 www.blackcatsoftware.com

Four pre-configured levels make this art package accessible to a wide spectrum of ages and abilities. Each level offers additional and more complex tools.

As children grow in skills you can introduce options such as "real paint" where paint gradually runs out and becomes fainter as the brush is moved over the paper. But my favourite addition is the opportunity to try out different paper textures such as canvas. You can also pick and choose tools to make your own level for a particular project.

Then you can tile, flip and experiment with symmetry and masks while the eraser gives you the option of removing a layer of your picture. It's a shame this doesn't come with a tutorial or sample lessonsactivities as the manual is not over expansive and people new to art packages may well miss out on a great deal of this very compact and powerful package. PT

Dinah Starkey is an educational consultant

Julie Yaxley is an ICT co-ordinator at Wincle CE Primary School, Cheshire and NOF teacher adviser.

Pam Turnbull is science co-ordinator at the Heys Primary School, Ashton-under-Lyne

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