6th January 2006 at 00:00
My mission was simple: make an exhaustive investigation of the best hardware and software available for teachers of design and technology. It took months to complete - but rest assured that you have lots to look forward to in the coming year, in both primary and secondary.

I work with primary schools regularly and this has heightened my senses.

From Black Cat comes Numbers, Words and Pictures 2 (pound;269 10-user licence). While not dedicated to design and technology, this cross-curricular KS1 and KS2 software can be used to introduce some key facets of the subject. It introduces painting ideas, looks at carrying out and presenting surveys, and includes a great turtle control program.

Toy Design (pound;3 to pound;6 per child) from Espresso is a tailor-made module supporting the design and technology curriculum for KS2. There are lots of opportunities for design work, mind-mapping, watching video clips and analysing images.

My top pick last year was the Selwyn Electronics Digimemo (pound;75) drawing and writing pad. This has been a huge success in schools. The company's Art Pad (pound;40) is bound to be just as successful. It is accurate, simple to use and, combined with the paint package, ideal from KS1 through to degree level.

Junior Control Insight (pound;55) from Logotron is aimed at KS2 and 3 and uses natural, everyday language to control on-screen simulations. What are interesting here are the quick "Fix-its" that aid the teacher in generating a range of control systems that require modifications. Logotron has a control box solution at pound;199, to which you can add accessories.

Control Insight (pound;89) is aimed at KS3 and 4 (see Roger Frost's data-logging round-up on Web Extras at www.tes.co.ukonline). Also from Logotron is an interesting piece of software called Thinking with Pictures (pound;49 single user) aimed at KS1 to 3. In this, a mind map is associated to corresponding graphics, hyperlinks and sound. For mind-mapping software for KS3 and KS4 look out for Cornerstone (pound;99).

Serif is dependable in its no nonsense and straightforward design applications. Draw (pound;240 10-user licence) is no exception. This superb graphics program has a vast range of features and handles vectors and bitmaps seamlessly. The built-in animation tool is as easy as I have seen and the templates for creating images within seconds make it suitable for KS2 and up. It's a steal at this price.

A piece of cost-effective hardware that you should take a look at for primary and secondary design and technology activity is the Graphtec Craft Robo (Pounds 295). This cutterplotter is great for cutting card and vinyl and will plot on A4 paper. Visit Techsoft, where you will see some superb technology for pushing Cad-Cam to its limits, including the Craft Robo.

Teachers' TV has not shied away from design and technology. Broadcasts such as Resource Review, from Brook Lapping, have helped identify resources from Unimatic, Cad-Cam, Flying Pig, Nelson Thornes, TEP and the spectacular Camtasia software from Techsmith. Missed an episode? Don't worry, Teachers'

TV offers free programme downloads from it's website once a programme has been broadcast. It's brilliant.

Boxford has returned with a plethora of Cad-Cam solutions for schools. The company is proud of its A1HSRi2 router (pound;18,000). This serious hardware will machine material up to and including A1 size. The company has not stood still when considering the Cad-Cam Initiative. It has extracted a top-end machining application from its renowned 3D-GeoCAM for all common educational Cad-Cam equipment. This software has optimised finishing strategies for those tiring of the ubiquitous-but-simple raster routines.

Crocodile Clips will be screening its famous Crocodile Technology (pound;190 for a five-user licence), which brings together key aspects of electronic systems and control. You can develop circuits, write and test flowcharts, program PIC microcontrollers and simulate what you have done.

Real PCB (pound;99 site licence) converts Crocodile Technology circuits, including those with PIC chips, to PCB layouts. It is providing keen competition for others in the field, including New Wave Concepts and its recent smash hit with teachers of electronics, Circuit Wizard (from pound;129.99 single user).

Looking for content for your interactive whiteboard? Boardworks has mastered a series at KS3 (pound;199 site licence) and KS4 (pound;249 site licence). The range of titles takes advantage of Flash interactivity and is great for class participation.

Don't miss

Click View Classroom Video Stand LR4

This is a massive server-based video resource for all curriculum areas (approx pound;2,000 per year). Search for plastics for example and, boom, there they are in glorious MP4 video. I am delighted to see that students are allowed to copy programs to memory stick for home use. Teachers can produce lessons and attach their own documents, images and video. The design and technology content is huge and being added to constantly.

Believe me, this product will impact on your school when used in conjunction with good teaching.

Tel: 01454324222 www.classroomvideo.co.uk

Birchfield Interactive Stand Z56

Even our director of IT smiled as each title (pound;149) went on to the network seamlessly. The tested titles were fully SCORM-compliant for the assessment of students with feedback. There are lots of titles for KS3 and 4, and sixth-form design and technology, including Manufacturing Plastics, Flat Pack Furniture and Mechanisms and Structures, to name but a few. I was totally engaged with the high-end presentation, clear voice and an intuitive user interface. The clever people behind these titles have really thought about this.

Tel: 0845 676 2222 www.birchfieldinteractive.com

Volito 2 digital tablet Wacom Stand Z44

Wacom has a great reputation for producing great hardware. The Volito 2 digital tablet (pound;40) is no exception. Despite its diminutive size, accuracy was impressive. Sketching was second nature and I have been converted. The people at Wacom are determined to make each new user take a short tutorial where different features of the pen and pad are revealed at each step. Smart move!


Other contacts

Black Cat www.blackcatsoftware.com

Boardworks Stand F70 www.theboardworks.co.uk

Boxford Stand W98 www.boxford.co.uk

Crocodile Clips Stand D74 www.crocodile-clips.com

Espresso Education Stand D64 www.espresso.co.uk

Flying Pig www.flying-pig.co.uk

Graphtec www.graphtecgb.com

Logotron www.logo.com

Nelson Thornes Stand C70 www.thornes.co.uk

New Wave Concepts www.new-wave-concepts.com

Selwyn Electronics Stand LR2 www.selwyn.co.uk

Serif Europe Stand X90 www.serif.com

Teachers' TV Stand X34 Techsoft UK Stand G62 www.techsoftuk.co.uk

Unimatic Engineers Stand F55 www.unimatic.com

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