However, putting a pretty interface on a product does not make it good. For education it has always been a balancing act between high values and informed content, interactive and focused. So what will 2006 offer the primary school teacher?
Crick Software has been working with other companies to utilise the new features of Clicker 5. With Espresso Education they bring us ClickerVision (pound;50 per CD). Ideal for early learners and pupils with special needs, there are two CDs focusing on Food and Weather. Each contains video clips and newspaper articles supported by a range of differentiated activities.
BlackCat's Literacy Activity Builder (pound;149 for a site licence) enables teachers to create a range of literacy activities for foundation stage to key stage 2 using a set of template tools. The program then generates professional content, saving on preparation time. It works particularly well on an interactive whiteboard with teachers changing the look and feel of lesson materials. All activities can be printed as worksheets or as paper-based games. To get you going, there are over 60 ready-made activities.
For older children take a look at Dramatic Media's Literacy Through Fire Safety Awareness (pound;179 for a site licence). There are three aspects: a 20-minute drama featuring nine-year-old Marc Khan and his family, who are woken one night by the sound of the smoke alarm. The drama carries key messages about what to do in the event of a domestic fire while the activities are a series of tasks to do with safety behaviour before children engage in different writing tasks from an argument to their own personalised safety poster.
An unusual newcomer this year is Book-Builder (from pound;14.99 per book).
KS2 children can access the website and create their own yearbook combining design, literacy and ICT skills. Teachers maintain editorial control while Book-Builder provides training on caption writing, proof-reading and using images. Pupils are encouraged to take on the roles of advertising managers, public relations managers, copy editors, editors-in-chief and finance managers.
For a touch of music look to ESP who are releasing The Dums International (pound;50) featuring music from Africa, South America, the Andes, Australia, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, India, Indonesia and Macedonia.
Their BETT stand will host Kuzari, two West African musicians who will be performing on the Thursday combining live music with the software on an interactive whiteboard.
An unusual product is Channel 4's Worlds of Faith (pound;50) as it is divided into sections, for 9 to 11-year-olds and 11 to 14-year-olds. This makes it a good resource for citizenship and philosophy, and not just for gifted and talented children in KS2. The first section is called World Religions and provides information on Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism with video clips showing religions as they are experienced and practised in different countries. For older children there is Questions of Faith, which explores religious ideas in greater detail and how individuals of different faiths approach personal, moral and ethical issues. Interactive sections require pupils to approach contemporary social problems via religious viewpoints and to debate their respective viewpoints.
Want to build on geography skills? Sherston has added to its Barnaby Bear series with Barnaby Bear Tours the UK (pound;59.95), where children find out about, describe and compare 12 locations from Portmeirion to Windermere using geographical language, identifying landscape features, compass directions and grid positions with photographs, video and sound.
Logotron's Thinking with Pictures (pound;49) is a model-mapping program with a difference (review on Web Extra). It allows children to put their thoughts in one place before sorting, classifying, sequencing, comparing and contrasting in the Outline mode, and then moving on to Presenter mode, whether as an assessment or presentation. A text-to-speech facility opens the package to a wide range of abilities.
From the same company comes the Widgit Rebus concept symbol set, with its bank of images that allow children access to a range of key word concepts.
These provide clues to remembering key facts and unravelling their thought processes, helped by templates on a range of subjects.
Simple City 2Simple Software Stand C54
Created with the foundation stage in mind. It is designed to stimulate listening, language, creative play and independence with on-screen activities that flow into activities away from the screen. Starting with a tour of your chosen area - from a doctor's surgery to a play park - and with on-screen experts - from Alan the farmer to Lisa the vet - children build a dream house, design an ideal garden farm or even zoo.
Tel: 020 8203 1781 www.2simple.com
Idiom Track SEMERC Stand E40F40
Aimed at Year 4 onwards, Idiom Track explores the meaning behind everyday sayings such as "keep your hair on", which makes it a particularly good resource for children with English as an additional language or for pupils with particular needs associated with autistic spectrum disorders, who can experience great difficulty distinguishing between the real and literal meanings of idioms.
Tel: 0161 827 2719 www.semerc.com
Kowari Simica Stand M35
A collection of learning tools from group debates to shared writing, email, report writing and collaborative mind-mapping for children in foundation to Year 6. Pupils can work alone, with a partner, a group or as a whole class regardless of the subject matter. All the tools can be set for the age and ability of the children.
Tel: 07098 5658082 www.simica.co.uk
Black Cat Stand F40E40 Tel: 0161 827 2927 www.blackcatsoftware.com
BookBuilder Ltd Stand R14 Tel: 01483 223094 www.book-builder.co.uk
Channel 4 Stand D42 Tel: 08701 246444 www.channel4.comlearningshop Crick Software Stand B38 Tel: 01604 671691 www.cricksoft.com
Dramatic Media Stand SW60 Tel: 020 8883 4961 www.dramaticmedia.net
ESP Stand SW2 Tel: 0115 9444140 www.espmusic.co.uk
Logotron Stand B30 Tel: 01223 425558 www.logo.com
Sherston Software Stand E60 Tel: 01666 843200 www.sherston.com