Spoilt for choice

5th January 2001 at 00:00
The software scene is inundated with new primary titles - many on literacy and numeracy. Chris Drage takes a look at what's on offer.

This year, like the last, has seen an explosion in software purporting to support the literacy and numeracy strategies, and BETT 2001 will be awash with supporting titles. The quality of these is variable, so you need to be discerning. The rule of thumb is, go for software that has a clear pedagogy and perhaps some form of tracking.

The growing emphasis on website delivery is clearly evident, with some excellent online learning resources out there. Top of my list must be the dynamic AngliaCampus's, www.anglia.campus.com, Pedagog Limited's, www.atschool.co.uk (worth every penny of its modest subscription) and Digitalbrain's free resource site, www.digitalbrain.com. For secure home-school electronic communications check out www.mychildatschool.com on the Bromcom stand. This could well be the way forward for future parentschool interactions.

The software scene is inundated with new titles. For early years children, Leaps amp; BoundsSequencesMicroworld 2000 (pound;29 to pound;39+VAT) from Brilliant Computing (stand F40 - review p69) represents the best there is. SoftEase will be showing TextEase Studio (pound;149+VAT) - everything you always wanted in TextEase, including word processor, desktop publishing, spreadsheet and relational database. It combines TextEase's traditional flexibility and ease of use with many exciting new features.

Granada Learning has rapidly become a major force in UK software publishing having acquired publishers, such as Brilliant Computing, Blackcat Software, SEMERC, and so on. It's flagship, Granada Toolkit (pound;149+VAT) has three new modules: Branch (hierarchical database, pound;39+VAT), Logo (pound;49+VAT) and Draw (vector drawing, pound;39+VAT). Also check out Granada's excellent All About Materials (pound;49+VAT). This is the fifth CD-Rom in an early years series that really does hit the mark.

On the numeracy front, many teachers will welcome the short-focused tasks that feature in Granada's Ten Minute software (each pound;49+VAT). Similarly, Sherston Software has been very productive, with a large range of software to support literacy and numeracy. In Junior Multimedia Lab (pound;59.95+VAT), Year 6 teachers have possibly the easiest of tools with which to deliver this aspect of ICT.

Similarly, among the latest numeracy support software, Mental Maths Olympics (pound;49.95+VAT) and the new Making Sense of Maths series (each pound;29.95+VAT) perform their respective tasks very well. RM will be showing Easiteach Maths, an interactive whole-class teaching service for primary schools. The online content collection provides teaching activities, plus accompanying curriculum notes, which can be downloaded.

If you are planning to put in that network room, be sure not to miss Viglen's excellent Classlink 2000. It arguably offers the best network management tools available.

On the hardware front, check out two items on the TAG stand. JamStudio is perhaps the easiest graphics tablet to use, thanks to its clever software (pound;65+VAT). Similarly, don't miss the IntelPlay QX3 Computer Microscope (pound;90+VAT, see review page 60).

Schools with iMac computers will already know that they have an item of software called iMovie (see photos, right). Have you discovered how easy high-quality movie making is today? All you need is a digital video camera (try Canon), preferably with two-way data transfer. iMovie helps you do the rest with unbelievable simplicity.

RM will be showing its latest developments in its Window Box range, including Window Box online, which has proven ver successful. The Window Box still represents the last word in primary curriculum systems. However, other companies are providing alternatives, and if you liked the Xemplar Primary Toolbox range, then consider Lynx Education PC Toolbox (on various stands).

The competition in this area is hotting up, with interesting and relatively cheap offerings from IBM. Mike Frisbee, who provided good value primary PCs in his days with Time Education, has brought together excellent primary software and IBM's solid hardware (its support record is probably the best in the UK) at bargain prices.

Is Acorn's Risc OS computer technology dead? Don't you believe it. Castle Technology continues to develop new machines that will give your school years of reliable service.

With so many networks being installed in primaries, many ICT co-ordinators have asked for resources to support the Qualification and Curriculum Authority's scheme of working in ICT. So check out Nelson Thornes' comprehensive Primary ICT Scheme. Also have a look at Hopscotch Publishing's Developing ICT skills. It's very popular and written specifically for non-specialist teachers.

New Opportunities FundTeacher Training Authority training will provide you with support for the curriculum, but what about teachers' personal IT skills? It is up to schools and individuals to deal with this. Here you should seek out Summerfield Publishing with their new KeyBytes For Teachers, which preserves all the functionality of the pupil's version, but is definitely for adults. There are numerous guides to help teachers and pupils become fully familiar with various applications. While you're there, take a moment to evaluate Payne-Gallway Publishers' affordable series, ICT Skills for Schools. Similarly, the Software Made Simple, Student Guides offer as much for staff development as they do for pupils.

Representing very good value, Focus Multimedia's Teaching-You series of CD-Roms comprises of demonstrations, tutorials and assessment modules. Each title costs only pound;9.99+VAT.

It is disappointing to discover that this year's BETT has proven to be a financial "bridge too far" for so many of our smaller, innovative, educational IT companies. Cambridgeshire Software House is the only education supplier of the incredibly practical and useful Sony Mavica range of digital cameras. Topologika has improved new versions of the popular MusicBox and ScreenTurtle.

4Mation Educational Resources have their new Tell a Tale and ever-popular Maths Circus series (Act 3 now available) and I was delighted to learn that the classic Granny's Garden returns its new PC guise. Inclusive Technology are a major force in special needs education IT. They, too, can't be at Olympia, but will be stationed in the nearby Hilton Hotel and invite visitors to spend time with them.

Full contacts on pp 76-77

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