Paint the world with a rainbow

25th February 2000 at 00:00
Numbers, Words and Pictures. CD-Rom for PC Windows 3.1 or later. pound;230 for 5 user licence or pound;300 for a 10-user licence. Individual programs can be purchased separately.

Paul Harrison on a CD-Rom for younger children.

Getting the right balance between simplicity and versatility is crucial when considering computer programs for young children. BlackCat have just about got it cracked with this introductory "toolbox" for younger infants which includes information handling, painting, LOGO and writing applications. Also included is a program enabling teachers to create worksheets.

The need to read has been kept to a minimum, so all facilities, functions and choices are operated by clicks on very large, clear icons. The teacher control panel allows them to determine such things as the range of function buttons or fonts to be made available on screen; or whether or not to include an on-screen wordlist.

Several of the programs are linked. So, for example, it is possible to include items from a data handling or paint program in a word processed document. And there is a large bank of attractive pictures which is available in most of the programs.

With one of the two information handling programs, children can create block graphs, pictograms, tally charts and verbal representations on a range of subjects such as eye-colour, pets or favourite foods. With the other, simple databases can be created on four popular infant topics (Ourselves, Homes, Weather and Minibeasts) which can then be searched by attribute and sorted. A basic word processor includes facilities for text justification and the inclusion of pictures which can be moved around the screen. P> There is an option for including a teacher-generated wordlist on the screen and also a recording facility, so that, for example, children can be recorded reading their own work.

A "paint" program has the usual facilities for changing brush size, changing colour, infilling, spraying, drawing shapes and so on.

The simple LOGO program is the only weak spot in the package. It works with a screen turtle only - not ideal for children of this age. Units of linear movement and of turn are chosen by the teacher and there is no option for allowing the child to change the angle while using the program.

The choice of angles is limited to 18x, 30x, 90x, and 120x (45x would have been useful for creating diagonals of rectangles). A "shape-builder" facility enables the child to create a "unit" shape which can then be repeatedly reproduced, rotated and translated.

To avoid children having to type complex instructions such as FD10, RT90, all movements are generated by simple clicks on arrows. Fine, for directions of turn.

However, having upward and downward arrows to represent, respectively, forward and backward movements - even if the forward movement is down the screen - will only confuse.

The teacher program for creating worksheets is a very basic but adequate desktop publishing program. Pictures, numbers, labels, text and text boxes can all be incorporated into the worksheets and manipulated in the usual ways.

Available from BlackCat Educational Software, Lion House, Bethel Square, Brecon, Powys LD3 7JP. Telephone 01874 622114. Fax 01874 611604, e-mail info@blackcatsoftware.com, or visit the website at: www.blackcatsoftware.com


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