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Software that truly puts you in the driving seat

Break into the computing world with the help of Junior Control Insight. Roger Frost looks at a program that speaks your language

Logotron's Junior Control Insight marks a significant breakthrough in software for teaching "computer control" - the curriculum area that lies somewhere between information and communications technology (ICT) and design and technology, a "must do" in schools.

The idea is to give pupils a grounding in the workings of clever things - we often start by understanding car park barriers and use these to underpin cleverer things like how the rides work at Alton Towers. Junior Control Insight takes a new approach to all that - for example, you no longer need to write a computer program which reads like, "when input two is on turn on output one". Instead, you click buttons and end up with a sentence that reads "when the door gets opened, turn on the light". Now rid of this "control-voodoo", if you can read even bad grammar, you can work out what will happen.

While the program will control a real control interface box, you can for once do without any hardware. You drag switches, motors and "modules" on a picture on screen and then link them together. You edit themodules so that when something happens things might switch on. You can arrange the switches and so on in a real scene like a child's bedroom or in another screen, or instead see how to wire things up on a control box.

So far, so brilliant and if you approach this right it will remain so. The key tip is that it's best to work with the six on-screen projects supplied. Each is at a level of completeness, ranging from raw to finished. Starting with half-done versions, pupils from around the top of primary can use them.

The wrong approach is to try to build a system from scratch. Not helping simplicity here are too many ways (toolbars, menus, and different views) to do the same thing and a tricky, cavernous dialogue box. But summon the patience to negotiate this, and a breakthrough will be at hand: at last you can teach control with very little equipment.

Although apparently aimed at the primary market, this is a bit too complicated, but it does make an ideal bit of software for 11 to12-year-olds.

Junior Control Insight for key stages 2 and 3 from LogotronPrice: pound;47

Tel: 01223 425558www.logo.com

Suitability for purpose *** Ease of use *** Value for money ****

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