6th January 2006 at 00:00
"There is so little software for English," is a regular complaint. But it's not true! In actual fact there is plenty, and much of it is free.

Microsoft, for example, gives away quite a few useful tools. At the Microsoft site you can download Photo Story and Reader. You can use Photo Story to develop a video out of a series of still images, you can add narration, music and transitions, and then save and share the finished product. It is a creative way of presenting material.

Microsoft Reader is a free program for reading ebooks. It uses ClearType technology for easy reading on small PDA screens. It is easy to create your own ebooks in Word, and the text in ebooks can be searched, highlighted, annotated and illustrated. The PC version has text-to-speech, enabling books to be read to you. The books are, of course, electronic. It means that a teacher could find a text, say a Shakespeare play, create it as a "book" and annotate passages, phrases or single words for students. That text can be distributed free of charge to all students on the course who can continue to annotate their copy.

Microsoft will be launching Learning Essentials, which will enable teachers to convert Office into a teaching and learning tool. The free package, which works in conjunction with Office XP and 2003, provides students and teachers with a customised Office environment with tools to help them work more effectively.

The existence of a number of broken links should not deter you from exploring the materials on Geoff Barton's website. Most of them are very good. The work that Geoff has put up on accent and dialect is particularly valuable. The English teachers' friend Teachit is also continuing to support and develop.

It could be argued that access to a great archive is essential. The raw internet is a great archive for literature pre 1900 but many things after that are difficult to find. Proquest (available on subscription) can help with access to reviews and comments on contemporary writers. The new Class Kits are resources that are meant to work with an interactive whiteboard.

Recently refurbished and expanded, RM's Living Library (available on subscription) is well worth investigating.

Granada's Black Cat has launched a new CD-Rom, Literacy Activity Builder (pound;149 site licence), to enable teachers to build their own whiteboard activities that can look as good as any that they can buy. The activities include multiple-choice, matching games and sorting. Once created, the program then automatically generates the content with a professional sheen.

Also for primary is IdeasMap (pound;39 single user) from Softease.

Mind-mapping is used routinely in many schools and IdeasMap is a simple way of inserting mind-mapping into the primary curriculum. Users can add sub topics, audio, video and images.

Another crack at mind-mapping is 2Connect (pound;39 single user) a simple way to put ideas on a page. The connections are made as fast as the teacher or student can type them or use the on-screen keyboard to type on to a whiteboard. Sound can be added along with images. The collaborative possibilities are useful as this is a networkable program where ideas instantly update on other machines so in no time a sea of words appears on the screen.

Publishing to the world for a student can be motivating, much better than the exercise book or the school magazine. With a blog (web log) you can do it without all the fuss of creating web pages. There is a certain danger with this which will make it all the more exciting to the kids. There are numerous programs for doing this.

Publishing is also what podcasting does. Who would have imagined that each class could have their own radio station - which is what podcasting is.

Podcasting enables people to create and broadcast radio. You can use an iPod for this or any machine that will play MP3 files. Kudlian Soft's Podcaster (around pound;17) helps you create enhanced podcasts: you can include titles, images and web links. Images in these files can be viewed on an iPod with photo capabilities. It is built for the Apple machines and works gracefully.

We started with software that is free and will finish with software that many would say is expensive. However, you must see MediaStage from Immersive Education. It is the best software for English that I have seen in years. At pound;350 it is a steal! What you are being given is a media studio with cameras and mixer and set. A wonderful way of stimulating study and creativity.

Don't miss

Media Stage IMMERSIVE EDUCATION Stand D70 A program that makes the study of media meaningful. Has to be seen.

Tel: 01865 811000 www.immersiveeducation.comuk

Proquest Learning Literature PROQUEST Stand H44 A wonderful archive of contemporary and relevant resources.

Tel: 01223 271 420 www.proquestlearning.co.uk

2Connect 2Simple Stand C54 A fresh look at mind-mapping.

Tel: 0845 6732 122 www.2simple.com

Other contacts

APPLE Stand E34 F34 Tel: 0800 039 1515 www.apple.comukeducation

Geoff Barton www.geoffbarton.co.uk

GRANADA Stand E40 F40 Tel: 020 8996 3632 www.blackcatsoftware.com

LIVING LIBRARY Stand E50 D50 Tel: 08709 086969 (Primary); 08709 086868 (Secondary) www.livinglibrary.co.uk

MICROSOFT Stand D34 D30 www.microsoft.comwindowsxpusingdigitalphotographyphotostorydefault.mspx PODCASTING www.apple.compodcasting

KUDLIAN Stand M100 Tel: 01926 842544 www.kudlian.netproductspodcaster

Serif www.freeserifsoftware.comsoftwarePhotoPluskey_features.asp

SOFTEASE Stand C56 Tel: 01335 343421 www.softease.com

Teachit www.teachit.co.uk

WEBLOGGER www.blogger.com

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