23rd February 2001 at 00:00
JUNIOR MULTIMEDIA LAB. pound;59.95 for a single user(multi-packs and network version available). Sherston Software, Angel House, Sherston, near Malmesbury, Wiltshire SN16 OLH. Tel: 01666 843200. Email: Website: Once in a while you chance upon a piece of software that you immediately think is worth investing in for the whole school. Junior MultiMedia Lab is just such a package, designed to make multimedia authorship a rewarding experience for even the least confident teacher or pupil.

This package is interactive and simple to use. It appeals directly to children via a full-colour, narrated and jargon-free interface. Better still, it comes with an excellent tutorial: a thorough introduction that takes even the least ICT-literate teacher through the software tools in six easy steps, demonstrating the range of possibilities so teachers can support pupils with confidence.

Industry standard software provides many complex tools, making even simple tasks too daunting for the novice. But Sherston has demonstrated its experience by getting the right balance of power and accessibility.

An extensive bank of national curriculum topic-based extras is supplied to experiment with, but it is extremely easy to add your own: digital photographs or scanned images, clipart from other sources, sound, video and animaion. In fact, all standard file formats for presentation are supported.

In addition there are photocopiable resource sheets to help plan a presentation in either linear or non-linear fashion.

Junior MultiMedia Lab has done for digital publishing what Caxton did for the printed book, making it possible for authors - whether children or teachers - to share the fruits of their labours via a self-reading file for use in other classrooms or schools. This versatility is refreshing. Recipients don't need to have Junior MultiMedia Lab themselves and presentations can easily be published on school websites.

Junior MultiMedia Lab also includes facilities to overcome the multimedia presentation problem that bothers even the calmest ICT co-ordinator - lack of space. The copy wizard tool will compress a complete folder of all the resources in a presentation into a single archive, saving space and making it easier to transfer files to floppy disk or other media.

Because it is so easy to use, children will have experienced a range of examples produced by their teachers and be familiar with layout and sources of material before they are expected to develop their own presentations. Junior MultiMedia Lab is definitely a software "must-have".

Gillian Blatherwick is ICT co-ordinator at Rushey Mead primary school, Leicester.

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