Hide-and-seek time

3rd January 1997 at 00:00
An update of an educational legend.


New Windows version of popular cloze software, formerly for Nimbus computers, stand-alone copy Pounds 46, additional copies Pounds 12, server version Pounds 60, LETSS. Tel 0181 860 0100

This program has become a legend in educational software. Devised by Bob Moy in the Eighties, Developing Tray is a program that encourages children to predict hidden letters in a piece of text. The text is then "developed" and revealed to the reader, much as a photograph is revealed to a photographer as it appears in the developing tray. A new version has recently been developed for Windows PCs by the London Educational Technology Support Service (LETSS).

Because of its flexibility, the program itself has not dated, although the interface has. The new version for Windows has brought the interface up to date, with an improved scoring system and a well-designed screen for entering text, which is displayed in a large font. The font can be changed, as can the background and foreground colour, which is useful for pupils with visual difficulties.

On beginning a new game, children are presented with a piece of text, where some words and letters are revealed and some are hidden by dashes or stars. The score is calculated by adding points for correct letters and subtracting points for incorrect letters. Strings of correct letters or Jackpot letters, which are contained in starred key words, are worth more points. Letters can be bought from the shop but cost points. In the old version you could buy all the instances of one letter, but in this version you have to select the letter or word you want to buy. Children can jot down their thoughts as they work on the text in a smart "notepad". Games can be saved and returned to later.

The Editor, where teachers can enter their own text files, is now more user friendly. Words can be hidden more easily than in the old version and the Editor also allows the creation of a personalised graphic appropriate to a particular child, to be shown as a reward when the game is completed.

A part of the program called the Datazone is used to create different users in different classes, with the ability to store scoring statistics for each user and class. Unfortunately, the ability to record a game, showing which moves the pupil has made in revealing the text, is no longer available in this version. Used properly, this feature was useful in diagnosing particular difficulties that individual pupils have in predicting the text.

Devtray can be used in any subject as a framework for the investigation ot texts, although more will be gained if teachers have some understanding of the philosohpy behind its development. I have seen it used by English teachers for the study of the nature of texts and genres, by foreign language teachers for raising particular points, such as gender agreement, and by special needs teachers for supporting children's individual learning needs.

Hopefully, a new generation of teachers will discover Developing Tray in its new Windows version.


LETSS stand 724

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