Chris Drage reports on a welcome update to KeyBytes, an ICT coursework classic.
According to software manufacturers Summerfield, over 700 schools and colleges already use KeyBytes. And as a course in information and communications technology for key stage 3 pupils, the software, student textbooks, worksheets and teachers' guide have certainly proved their worth. This version, 3.2 (now on CD-Rom), is an attempt to bring the content up to date for Windows 98 and modern peripherals.
Summerfield has sensibly stuck with the program's well-proven structure, which guides and interacts with students and has frequent checkpoints and tests. But it now considers the new national curriculum proposals and has been made more suitable to average or lower ability students at the start of key stage 3, as well as high-ability pupils at the top end of key stage 2.
The program loads without fuss on to a Windows NT network and allows straightforward. transfer of existing pupilclass records.
One of the most obvious changes to the sftware is that it now works in higher resolution modes and the additional colours improve the overall effect. Similarly, the old smileysad faces are gone, exchanged for simple redgreen lights. The vocabulary has been streamlined and improved, too. Apart from a few glitches, which Summerfield quickly put right by emailing software "antidotes", the system works as smoothly as ever.
The only disappointment is the quality of the results printout, which remains unimaginative. Similarly, although the textbooks are much improved, a few more splashes of colour wouldn't have gone amiss.
So is it worth upgrading? If the response of my year 7 at John Kelly Girls' Technology College is anything to go by, the verdict is favourable indeed. The majority are as enthusiastic about KeyBytes as ever - a definite thumbs-up.
KeyBytes 3.2 for PC from pound;495+VAT (350-user licence) Tel: 01386 854972
ONLINE STAR RATING
Suitability for purpose ****
Ease of use ****
Value for money ****