A new spin on old discs;Software classics

26th June 1998 at 01:00
Three teachers pick favourite programs from the computer hall of fame. By Les Watson

Hi-tech sleuths

You know the information revolution has really arrived when someone chooses a single software file rather than a whole program as their computer classic. Mick Harwood's choice is a file called WhoDunnit, which requires Longman Logotron's Junior Pinpoint software before it can be used.

Junior Pinpoint is a program that allows children to explore ways of handling information, usually arranged in the form of a questionnaire.

Although Junior Pinpoint comes with ideas for developing files, Mick Harwood, headteacher of Blakenhall junior school, Birmingham, and a member of Micros and Primary Education, feels that teachers lack confidence and expertise in this area, and that databases are not used enough in primary schools generally. With WhoDunnit, Junior Pinpoint is turned into a problem-solving detective story for pupils aged nine to13.

The WhoDunnit pack consists of 50 cards in a book, each presenting a crime that can be solved via the database. The cards provide opportunities for reading in context and enable children to extract clues they can use to interrogate the database. Children find the content of the database fun and are consequently highly motivated.

Mick sees WhoDunnit as an excellent way into data-handling activities, providing motivation and enabling children to grasp the basics of data-structures so they can go on to build their own databases.

Junior Pinpoint is available from Longman Logotron (01223 425558), pound;41 (PC), pound;31 (Acorn). WhoDunnit was originally developed by the North Eastern Library Board, Northern Ireland, and is now available free to MAPE members.

Once upon a time..

Fairy Tales is a piece of software that runs on the old BBC computer. Fiona Sanderson, a part-time teacher at St Matthews Roman Catholic first school, Prudhoe, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, uses it with Years 1 to 4.

For Years 1 and 2 it provides a bank of pictures that can be placed anywhere on the screen to produce a compound picture. Children can add coloured text, or the pictures can be used on their own to tell a story. A hand-written version and a print of the pictures can be made into a book, or the pictures can be saved within the software and an audio-taped story, narrated by the teachers or the children, played to accompany them. The software is good for co-operative work between age groups, with older children adding the story at their level.

More complex work can be done by Years 3 and 4, such as adding characters or more scenery in a range of colours to create windows, walls, large text, or whatever the children's imagination can conjure up.

Fiona has used Fairy Tales with the older children to create a book for reception pupils. The pages were printed in colour, laminated and collated in a ring-binder to give the product a professional finish.

Fairy Tales was available from Resource (01509 672222). The company has a newer program for Acorn users, BookMaker II (pound;49.95) that has similar uses to Fairy Tales.

Game on

Sortgame is Betty Lumley's classic program. Betty, deputy head of St Helen's College lower school, in Hillingdon, London, uses it to extend pupil knowledge and explore sorting things by their differences rather than their similarities - something young children often find difficult.

Softgame enables them to focus on the differences between items in a collection and the program poses questions that point out such differences to pupils. Sortgame runs on the BBC Master and Archimedes. Pupils can ask one-word - or more complicated - questions, but they require a "yes" or "no" answer.

Betty has used Sortgame in topic work with reception, Year 1 and Year 2. In the school's holiday club, Year 5 and Year 6 children used it to produce maps and football surveys. Softgame has immense educational value.

Softgame was originally written for the Micro-Electronics in Education Programme, and subsequently appeared in the data-handling pack from the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency for the BBC Master. Write to BECTA at Milbury Hill Road Science Park, Coventry CV4 7JJ. MAPE has produced an Archimedes version and will shortly have a PC version.

Les Watson is dean of information services, Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education and chair of MAPE MAPE -Micros and Primary Education - helps primary teachers use information technology. Membership pound;15 per year. Write to MAPE, Cligeraint Farm, St Anns, Gwynned LL57 4AX, or call Val Siviter on 01248 602655.

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