There is an argument which says that art software for primary schools should be the same as for older pupils. Let's face it, a four-year-old can use the same pencil as, say, David Hockney. It is the way the pencil is used that will be different.
However, I have seen teachers bewildered by the options available with "professional" art programs and, although pupils are generally fearless on the computer, they can often get lost too. The opposite problem with some primary art software is that it is so simple that it does not engage pupils sufficiently and can stifle creativity. This is not the case with Dazzle 03 (pound;79), a program that will meet young pupils' artistic needs and encourage their creativity. It can be tailored to the ability level of the pupils or the task in hand by customising the tool bar. Further good news is that it is very manageable for the teacher.
Another easy-to-use, yet high-quality art program is Revelation Natural Art (pound;55) which has been around for a while now and is suitable for primary or secondary use. Revelation Sight and Sound (pound;55) will be launched at BETT. This builds upon the simple sophistication of its sister program and enables video, still images, drawings and sound to be edited and combined with ease.
There is a storyboard editor and it is possible to make a movie from digital still photographs or digital video with music, sound effects and voice added. As digital video cameras are now fairly common in schools, this program opens up different areas of creative work for pupils and can, of course, be used in many different curriculum areas.
Animation can also be a great motivator for pupils. Designed primarily for web animation, Flash MX 2004 (pound;79) is a good way of creating simple animation. Expressive arts pupils in Years 10 and 11 at South Axholme Community School have created some great examples of Flash films. They will also be on display at the Macromedia stand at BETT, and there will also be an opportunity to talk to some of the young artists who created them. An extensive showcase of the excellent animations can be seen on the school website (www.southaxholme.doncaster.sch.uk).
Xara remains my favourite vector program and, in its latest guise, Xara X1 (pound;39 for 10-plus licences), it is a very flexible and intuitive program which now has additional image manipulation tools such as cropping, rotating, enhancing and sharpening within a fast, interactive, live preview. This has to be one of the slickest programs around - as, of course, is Photoshop, which is now in its eighth reincarnation. Known as Photoshop CS (pound;189), it is now even more useful for art departments.
Images can now be automatically adjusted for highlight and shadow detail, there is an improved file browser, better typography options and many other tweaks which still make this the number one image manipulation software.
A new version of Photoshop Elements, known as Elements 3 (pound;28) is also now available. New features added to this fine program include a "spot healing brush" (ideal for digital photographs of teenagers!), templates to make dynamic slide shows and a "photo compare" box which allows different images, or versions of an image, to be seen side by side. Although aimed at the "digital consumer" this remains an extremely useful program for school use. It also has the advantage that it can be less daunting than the full version of Photoshop (see Adobe offer on page 5).
In an ideal world, art departments would regularly engage with artists and craftspeople to give pupils an opportunity to see real professionals at work. In reality this is not always possible. There is a website which can help at www.artisancamnorth.org.uk. This site features one craftsperson each term and has many video clips of work in progress along with a live webcam and the opportunity for video conferences. There are also useful teacher resources on the site. Spring term 2005 features the printmaker Paul Scott. The last two people featured were a sculptor and a potter.
Another lively and inspirational website well worth visiting is www.accessart.org.uk, which features a range of animated interactive art workshops on topics such as casting and construction, drawing, installation art and photography. There are useful teachers' notes and resources. It also features the Immersive Learning Project which aims to inspire teenagers to explore space in creative ways.
adobe - Photoshop Elements 3
A significant improvement over the last version and is a "must have" piece of software for art departments as it incorporates most of the main features of Photoshop at a bargain basement price. It is much easier to get to grips with than Photoshop CS.
Tel: 020 8606 4000
indigo learning - Dazzle 03
A very user-friendly program which primary schools will grow to love. It manages to be on the one hand a very basic tool that the youngest of pupils can comfortably manage, and on the other hand a very capable art programme for much more demanding tasks.
Tel: 01480 354335
logotron - Revelation Sight and Sound Stand SN10
An exciting new program which will open up the possibility of using moving images and sound to pupils, encouraging budding film directors to develop creative ideas. It also has many cross-curricular applications. This programme will have its first showing at BETT '05.
Tel: 01223 425 558
Artisan Cam North www.artisancamnorth.org.uk
Axholme Community School
Macromedia Stand B104
Students from South Axholme Community School will be on the stand on Thursday January 13: 3.10pm-3.30pm; Friday January 14: 1.50pm-2.10pm
Tel: 01344 458600 www.macromedia.com
Tel: 01442 350000