8th December 2000 at 00:00
FOUNDATION TO KS1. BigKeys Plus lower case keyboard. (PC version). pound;99.95.

Keytools Ltd, PO Box 700, Southampton SO17 1LQTel: 023 8058 4314 www.keytools.com

Straight out of the box, the colourful BigKeys Plus keyboard looks inviting, easy to use and robust. There's no need for special software; simply plug the keyboard into the PC and off you go. Designed for nursery, reception and key stage 1 pupils, the large keys are approximately 2cm square and the lettering is clear and lower case, to help children avoid the frustration of pressing the wrong keys.

The reduced number of keys makes the BigKeys Plus less confusing than a traditional keyboard, but all the main features are there. Navigation arrows and numbers have dedicated keys while backspace, numerical symbols and punctuation marks are readily accessible using the space bar as a "shift" ke. Function keys can be accessed in a similar way. The layout is the standard Qwerty arrangement except that easily confused "n" and "m" keys have been placed on separate rows. This helps to emphasise the difference between two letters that are often confused by young children.

If an "abc" format is required, the keyboard can easily be reconfigured by repositioning the keys and moving a concealed switch.

The BigKeys Plus will certainly help very young computer users develop their keyboard skills and enable them to interact more readily with the computer. It is easy to connect and can quickly be swapped with other keyboards, so it can be shared between several teaching groups. Versions compatible with Acorn RISC-PC and Archimedes A7000 computers are also available.

Cliff Porter lectures in science at Liverpool Hope University College

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