Authoring software sparks new creativity
Creativity in a box" is one description of multimedia authoring - the skills used to record sound and pictures, produce graphics, write, create video, and combine these elements in on-screen pages that relate to each other with structured and coherent links. Students can use it to refine their ideas, and there is no better way of imbibing, digesting, and synthesising information. Learning by doing becomes a reality.
Authoring programs use the analogies of book pages or a stack of cards to represent the interactive publication they create. Each page or card is a unit of information. They can have a background image, or colour and you can add images, video, graphics, sounds and shapes, buttons and slideshows by dragging and dropping the appropriate file. They can be positioned, resized and rotated as you wish. Text can be typed directly on to the page or imported. You can ensure that there is a clear way of moving from page to page or of playing a video or a sound, keeping score or even starting another program. When you move from page to page you can also have "movie" transitions such as fades, cuts and many others.
Project Presenter from Granada Learning is good for introducing young children to the concept that writing is no longer just putting words on paper. It is unsophisticated and straightforward. There is the page and you just drop files - video, graphics and audio - on to it. This is eminently suitable for 5 to10-year-olds.
* Mediator 6
Mediator 6 can build Web ages and multimedia. Within it are elements that will give students advanced features like animations, control outputs via a timeline, run external applications and create hyperlinks. There are templates for website designs and professional clipart. Easy to use and versatile, primary children have used the program and secondary children would enjoy its challenges. The manual is not for education so curriculum support would be welcome.
Price: pound;379 (20-user licence) www.granadalearning.co.uk
Specifically designed for education from the ground up. The latest version (4.1) has the first major changes for five years (see launch report on www.tes.co.ukonline). Drag-and-drop is used and it is simple to use. There is an anglicised spellcheck and a text-to-speech facility. Tag Learning has created a user guide and a teacher guide. Another attraction is that the support at Tag is very good. An added extra is Morph 2.5 which lets you to take two images and create a transition between them.
Price: single user pound;99.95; five-users pound;299.95 and each additional user thereafter pound;35 each. www.taglearning.com
* Illuminatus Opus
Digital Workshop's Illuminatus Opus is marginally more difficult to learn than Hyperstudio. It is, however, much easier to see what you have created. You can also use it for computer-based training as it will keep scores. Good features are the "Wizards" which guide users. Auto-narration is useful for teaching reading. Text can be written out and then recorded, and the recording can be synchronised to play when the file is used.