Building on the tried and tested

5th January 1996 at 00:00
MULTIMEDIA INFANT WINDOW BOX Pounds 1,499 + carriage and VAT. INFANT WINDOW BOX SOUND Pounds 1,299 + carriage and VAT Research Machines, New Mill House, 183 Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX14 4SETel: 01235 826868. Chris Drage looks at a hardware and software package for infants and likes what he sees

Research Machines has continued to revamp its Window Box systems and arrived at the Infant Window Box systems based around the now familiar PC-486 D-series, equipped with a CD-Rom, SoundBlaster, stereo speakers, headphones and microphone.

The Windows3 user interface is the consistent means by which users interact with the system, and, as we have come to expect from RM, a whole suite of purposeful and useful Windows-compliant software comes installed on the hard disc ready for use.

The RM Classmate software ensures security for all concerned. This has been selected to meet the full requirements of the national curriculum programme of study in information technology at key stage 1.

You will also find that the software covers programmes of study in a number of other curriculum areas, particularly where they relate to the provision of IT resources. Only religious education appears to be absent.

The software on board is: Talking First Word (word processor); Colour Magic (paint program); Information Workshop (database manager); My World (framework program); Oak Draw (draw application); First Logo, Counter (charts and tables); Numberpics (numbershape recognition); Point (whole-word entry system); Smart Alex (word recognition and vocabulary development); Resource Library and the standard Windows applications (Write, Paintbrush, Cardfile, Calendar, Chess and so on).

What is particularly pleasing is that all the software is tried, tested and among the best available this side of the Atlantic.

RM has sensibly grouped the user's programs in directories - Text, Art and Design, Data Handling and Logo - with an additional window containing a file called "end of session" employing an icon of a doorway which is easier for teachers to use and makes quitting Windows straightforward.

Talking First Word needs little introduction and can be regarded as the de facto standard primary word processor on PCs. Its main attributes are colour-coded levels of use and a requirement that children add sound effects or their own voices to a story as well as having it read out to them.

First Logo is Longman-Logotron's Windows version of its popular introduction to turtle geometry. Colour Magic is a 256 colour artpainting program developed by RM, while Numberpics and Counter are ideal number data-handling activities for the target age group.

The award-winning My World is a most welcome inclusion and the seven accompanying files are well chosen. Oak Draw complements My World very well, enabling teachers to create their own files.

You either love or hate My World. I like it very much, for it is one piece of software through which young children can independently demonstrate their IT capability without too much difficulty. Each time a My World file has been completed the child has demonstrated (or otherwise) that he or she can load software, manipulate data and then save or print it out as a record of work done.

Conversations with Smart Alex will prove motivating and help stimulate language. Although Point is a bit like having access to an on-screen overlay keyboard, it fades in comparison with Clicker For Windows (Crick Computing), a program I would like to see included in the Infant Window Box line-up.

However, it is important that this little program is included as it permits whole wordsentence and symbols input into First Word and for the young age group targeted, this is a vital element which can help overcome the problems of the qwerty keyboard and eliminate the need to purchase an additional overlay keyboard.

The multimedia version offers a number of additional CDs in the form of Rabbits at Home (mathslanguage), Harry and The Haunted House, The Tortoise and the Hare, Arthur's Birthday (talking books) and Multimedia Flashcards (English). These have more edutainment value than anything.

Teachers and systems managers have access to more tools and system controls than ever before. The depth and scope of the software utilities, disc tools and configuration programs is extensive. I was impressed to see even a folder of programs for file transfers to and from the Psion Series 3.

Similarly, RM has not forgotten its roots. Remembering that many primaries will still be using PC-186 programs, it continues to include emulation software to run these.

RM has always been known for its excellent support and with the Infant Window Box system you automatically gain access to the RM Window Box Partnership which entitles you to free training on how to use and manage all aspects of your newly-acquired computer system at a training centre near to the school.

It also includes a Pounds 25 voucher off any subsequent training the school may wish to undertake. With every RM computer you get a lifetime's support at the end of the telephone hotline and a three-year return-to-service-centre warranty. The software package, too, is all-important and RM has ensured that there is no "localisation" of American products here, having opted sensibly for UK tried and tested software.

RM provides schools with machines bundled with suitable software presented in a way which is comprehensible and logical to teachers and children. This policy is embodied in the Infant Window Box and begs the question "what have they left out?" Not a lot. The Infant Window Box system offers substantial benefits to schools: you get even more software for your money, all set up and ready to use. Every element in the system shouts quality down to the headphones and speakers of the multimedia version.

The Infant Window Box underlines the fact that when you equip your school with these systems, you can offer a consistent, developmental approach to IT provision across the key stages.

* Research Machines - stand 131

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