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Software Selection

Chris Drage picks some of his software favourites of the year.

* Oxford Talking Infant Atlas (Pounds 20, Sherston Software for 20Acorn, PC soon)Following the successful Talking Books, the Infant Atlas brings a new dimension to map reading at key stage 1. Based on the Oxford Infant Atlas (which is included in the pack) this interactive version enables geographic features to be switched on and off, labels read and quiz buttons activated on screen. All the place names children need to know at key stage 1 on three basic maps: Earth In Space, The World and Europe and The British Isles. The animations, sound effects and digitised speech add up to an excellent primary teaching tool.

Sherston Software :01666 840433.

* Design-and-make software Calendar (Pounds 25, Kudlian Soft for Acorn) is a lovely means of creating different calendars. My school's parent- teacher association raised over Pounds 100 using it with children's artwork.

In the same mould is Celebration Pack (Pounds 34.95, Clares Micro Supplies for Acorn), four programs which include Banner (vertical banners), Calendar, Certify (personalised certificates) and Giftwrap (pattern creation and textile design). Celebration Pack is excellent value for money.

One of the best design-and-make programs is Cardshop (Pounds 24.95, Clares Micro Supplies for Acorn). It allows children to design the front and inside of a card, then it creates a net for the envelope and a set of three "fun" stamps. You can import different images and fonts appropriate for a range of religious celebrations.

Lastly, Xstitch (Pounds 21.50, iSV Products for Acorn) enables children to create sewing designs. You can make cross stitches from any sprite (Acorn graphic image), select the material, alter the background colour, then Xstitch will automatically calculate the stitch size, convert the sprite colours to Anchor thread numbers, produce a coloured pattern and even estimate how long it should take to sew. Simple and encourages children to use their own creations.

Kudlian Soft: 01926 851147. iSV Products : 01344 55769. Clares Micro Supplies: 01606 48511.

* Aspects Of Religion (Pounds 99.99, available from Yorkshire International Thomson Multimedia for Acorn PC)This is a CD-Rom multimedia resource that allows pupils and teachers to explore eight of the major world faiths. A beautifully presented CD which contains text, still photos, pictures, video and sound clips related to the subject matter,it provides detailed and extensive coverage of the key aspects of each religion as a living faith. Buddhism, Christianity, Confusianism, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Shinto and Sikhism can each be investigated under the headings: people, worship, festivals, beliefs, places, scriptures, artefacts, communities and general facts. A commonsense approach to a potentially complex subject.

Yorkshire international Thomson Multimedia: 0113 2461528.

* Garden Wildlife (Pounds 40, SCA, Anglia Television, for Acorn, Apple PC).This CD encourages children to find out about animals that live in gardens and parks. Unlike many encyclopedic CD-Roms, Garden Wildlife does not offer straight facts but provides a broad overview, allowing pupils to visit a garden, park, library, cinema and an animal expert to obtain information, still photos and video clips. All text can be searched, all the resources can be saved and the searching facilities are easy to execute. However, its biggest attribute is that it encourages children to think about how they will go about their investigations rather than simply presenting facts.

SCA: 01268 755811.

* Stranger Danger (Pounds 19.95, Appian Way for Acorn) Reinforcing important personal safety messages, Stranger Danger is a useful program designed by a teacher and police-school liaison officer. It is aimed at nurseryinfant children who can generally operate it independently. The simulation activity included requires children to help identify and catch the stranger (always a male).

There are three follow-up games with activity sheets to help reinforce the ideas in the program. There is enough decision-making and added stimuli like vehicle sounds to lighten the program from its otherwise serious message. Apart from the mistake of representing strangers as purely male figures, this is a most useful program. All primaries should have it.

Appian Way: 0191 3731389.

Merlin: This is overmatter. Would you prefer this to the others?

Also half of these don't have prices. Do you want me to ring the companies?

Denise * Plantwise.

This interactive database, which uses superb animated graphics and text which has two levels of difficulty, follows in the footsteps of Bodywise. Topics covered are: plant structure, reproduction and an excellent section on classification. A complete glossary of terms is included.

Searches on the database are very easy with a "Fast Find" feature to help children quickly locate information based on a particular key word. A valuable aspect is being able to set up and run "experiments" within the world of the computer: plant growth experiment are always problematic in a primary school and Plantwise allows children to see patterns of growth and development particularly well.

Sherston Software, for Acorn, PC (01666 840833)..

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