Refined and sophisticated

3rd January 1997 at 00:00

Pentium Multimedia PCs and notebook computers Basic JuniorInfant Window Box Pounds 1,299; Multimedia JuniorInfant Window Box Pounds 1,699; Super Window Box Pounds 1,999 Research Machines Tel 01235 826868.

The previous version, Window Box 5, has found favour with many primary schools and is supported by more than 100 local authority and other advisory centres which can provide training and support as members of the "Window Box partnership" scheme.

The new version is a Windows computer with a collection of pre-installed software and files relating to many aspects of the curriculum in primary schools. Any computer company can do it, but RM's success is based on four factors: choice of software; documentation and curriculum support materials; management utilities; and training and support.

New additions for Window Box 6 include RM Detector - a simple-to-use package for monitoring with light and temperature sensors - which neatly meets curriculum requirements for 7- to 11-year-olds. Roamer World provides an on-screen simulation of the popular Valiant Roamer floor turtle in which commands can be created, edited and replayed. With a cable, commands can be loaded from and sent back to a real Roamer - with the software providing a good route for progression through to work with Logo.

Starting Graph enables young children to enter data and create a variety of graphs - with an option to generate brief reports being available to encourage them to analyse and draw conclusions from their data. The new additions, together with the original packages from Window Box 5, ensure a comprehensive coverage of the requirement for IT as well as providing material to support work in many aspects of other subjects.

Documentation and support materials continue to provide guidance in using the system and, importantly, curriculum-focused ideas and examples. Management utilities enable the system to be tailored and protected. Unlike "raw" Windows 95, icons can't be accidentally deleted, so the screen looks the same as the last time you used the computer. Management software, password-protected, enables the system to be customised for different users and simplifies the installation of new programs; a Resource Cupboard shows icons for each software package and these can be simply "dragged and dropped" on to the user names. This is much easier than in the previous Window Boxes.

Training and support is available through a voucher system. Every Window Box includes an entitlement to training which can be provided through the large number of local education authority and other support centres that link with RM. This link with local support agencies is also used to provide RM with feedback about development needs - many of the changes and additions in version 6 have resulted from this. A three-year warranty is also included.

As well as the Infant, Junior, Super (Infant and Junior combined) and Internet systems, Window Box 6 will also be available on a notebook computer. Although the software bundle and computer specifications have improved significantly, cost looks likely to stay the same. Schools will be pleased to see that the multimedia options allow you to select six CD-Roms from a choice of more than 40.

Overall, then, a good product improved still further.

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