Icon do it better

28th May 2004 at 01:00
Why pick up ICT skills from a book when the screen is more direct? Helen Yewlett checks out a CD

Electric Paper Clait Plus CD

CD-Rom pound;50 for single user, discounts on volume purchase, 25-user network licence pound;2,000 a year

The Electric Paper Company

Tel: 0800 626328

Email: info@electricpaper.ie

www.electricpaper.ie

Amy, who is 13, and Luke, 10, called in to help me test this CD-Rom for IT skills training. It was a wet Sunday afternoon and they were willing guinea pis. How would they cope with the Clait Plus CD-Rom, part of Oxford and Cambridge RSA (OCR) suite of IT qualifications? If they found it straightforward then, logically, a more mature student should have no difficulty.

I also wondered how the system would cope, since it is a single-user disk, with more than one person logged in, albeit at different times. Luke bagged the chance to be the computer operator. Although I had already used the CD and registered my name the night before, he had no problems registering his own name (This was an evaluation copy. In real life multiple users need a school network licence or a CD for each pupil.) The information is well set out, with a clear menu Amy and Luke followed easily. There are five sections - working with files and documents, spreadsheets, databases, presentations, and e-communication - which cover nine Clait Plus units.

The night before I had worked my way through the "working with files and documents" section. Whenever the package describes an activity, the pointer moves itself to the appropriate place and the process is demonstrated just as if you were using the package or setting up folders and all you have to do is watch and then, more often than not, repeat the process to the satisfaction to the package.

One of the things I'd never realised was that the little arrow on the corner of a Microsoft Word icon meant there was a short-cut attached to it.

There were lots of little things I picked up from following the package step by step, and I was relieved when I finally reached the test part on the section to see that I had almost full-marks.

I also explored on a completely random basis the e-communications section.

There were many features explained here that I had never used on my computer.

However, my reviewers decided to head for the Presentation option. Amy had already used PowerPoint in school and didn't seriously expect to learn anything extra from the presentation section and neither did I. However, it didn't take long before she was telling me "I never knew that" and I too was picking up tips I hadn't come across before.

Then came the crunch. Luke had never used PowerPoint before. How would he get on? Soon it became evident that I was needed to help him start.

However, he was able to move backwards and forwards between the package and his PowerPoint and soon he had found out the template options and he had changed his font, changed his text box background, and animated his name.

He was enjoying himself.

As a teacher, I still think I'd be needed to get the class started and prompt the pupils. But I would definitely use the disk with a class; it would undoubtedly lift their performance.

To pass Clait Plus, a teacher would still need to give candidates past papers to work through (see www.ocr.org.uk). Nevertheless, this is a package I found useful and which I am happy to recommend.

Helen Yewlett is head of the computing department and ICT co-ordinator at Ysgol Gyfun School, Ystalyfera, Swansea

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