REVIEWS - Digital resources

Supplied by Schoolzone, an independent body which asks teachers to evaluate digital learning titles

Colour Magic 3

RM

KS1, KS2

RM is a versatile program with a range of drawing and special effect tools, plus images related to a very wide range of curriculum topics. The usefulness and relevance of these images in transforming the program into a useful teaching and learning tool is immediately evident.

The tile feature and the ability to select, move and transform images and shapes, sets it apart from other painting and graphic programs and allow its use to be developed in supporting subjects right across the primary curriculum.

KnowledgeBox Literacy

Longman (Pearson)

F, KS1, KS2

The KnowledgeBox is a collection of visually exciting and relevant resources for the primary range. In addition to the learning areas that have been written there are excellent Web-based resources, bookmarked in the appropriate sections. Lessons can be assigned and are differentiated with interesting challenges for the more able. The short film clips (particularly in literacy) can hook the pupils' attention.

Black's Academy Educational Database

Black's Academy Limited

KS4, 16+

Black's Academy is an educational database providing source material for about 14 different subjects at AS/A2 level. There is also material available on the site in GCSE physics and chemistry. It covers all the major examination boards and is organised by board so it is easy to access relevant information. The facility to search for resources and information is particularly useful for planning from a teacher's perspective. Worksheets can be downloaded and printed off for use in a classroom situation. Each topic has some explanatory text followed by a series of drill exercises.

Web Mountain for Schools

Web Mountain

KS2, KS3, KS4, 16+

This Web-based package is designed for making a school website that can be easily updated from any computer with internet access. It provides teachers with the facility to create quickly and easily content relevant to the topics they are teaching and can be used to teach children to create their own Web pages. The product is quick and intuitive, so children can begin to add content to their Web pages from the first session. Web Mountain supports the National Curriculum and is a fantastic tool for embedding ICT across the whole curriculum.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Oxford University Press

KS3, KS4, 16+

This product is a web-based subscription site that provides an illustrated collection of 50,000 biographies of the many people who helped shape the history of the British Isles. Children, students, teachers or lecturers can uncover details not only about the great and the good, but also about people who have left their mark on history, be they good, bad or just bizarre.

Alice Junior

Softlink Europe

F, KS1, KS2

Alice Junior 5.50 is an efficient management tool to help run the modern school learning resource centre. A great emphasis is placed on child-centred learning, developing individual research skills and discovery in today's National Curriculum. Alice Junior provides the facilities for this plus a great deal more, especially in relation to more accurate record keeping and reduction in time spent administering the library. Alice Junior presents the user with a very powerful, comprehensive data base with management tools to meet almost any situation. The software comes with comprehensive tutorial guides, installation notes, and excellent, context sensitive and general help menus.

QuickSearch Interactive Wordsearch Maker for Schools

familyinterest.com ltd

KS2, KS3

QuickSearch Interactive Wordsearch Maker 4.0 is a dual-purpose program for teachers and pupils. It is an invaluable resource to enable teachers to make high-quality and professional word searches tailored to their subject and group. It has easy to use functions and menus as well as providing prepared, editable word lists for common primary and secondary school subject areas.

It can also be used by children themselves to create and share their own wordsearches either to print or for others to solve on screen.

Radiowaves.co.uk

Synergy Project Ltd

KS2, KS3, KS4, 16+

Radiowaves is an online, on-demand internet-based radio station/webzine created by young people for young people. It comes as a starting block of a homepage and pre-structured set of Web pages on which students can publish whatever is produced. There are pre-prepared tutorials to help users create, edit and publish content, and teachers have ultimate control over the content on their school's site. Material for the Radiowaves network can be textual, pictorial or audio.

Radiowaves appears to offer a great chance for schools to do something new and innovative. It offers the chance to encourage students to develop new skills and to promote their own self-confidence by participating in something challenging and different.

Camtasia Studio

TechSmith Corporation

KS2, KS3, KS4, 16+

This integrated set of software tools enables easy creation of screen movies. The succession of images can be recorded as a video which can include sounds, the user's commentary, annotations, drawings and graphics. The user interface is intuitive and the instructions are so clear that the first video can be produced and saved within 10 minutes. A variety of media files can be stitched together providing an impressive presentation including transitions, callouts and zoom effects for individual frames.

VideoStudio 8

Ulead Systems

KS2, KS3, KS4, 16+

Ulead VideoStudio is an innovative video editing suite, with a user- friendly interface enabling students from as young as 14 to use it successfully. Students can download their recordings from a mini digital video camera and be editing with relative ease in minutes. VideoStudio is a practical and fast way for students to understand the concept of mediation, by adding their own transitions and cuts to existing footage. Excellent support is available in the form of easy to read manuals.

Object Lessons

Art and Museum Service, East Sussex County Council

KS1, KS2

Object Lessons is an "Online Museum" featuring objects and artefacts from British and world history and with links to geology, biology and geography. There are several zones to explore with a dedicated Teacher Zone which contains ideas for using Object Lessons to support the National Curriculum. It is suitable for use with a range of Key Stages. The children found it easy to navigate. I used Object Lessons on the interactive whiteboard with the class, which enabled pupils to see a large image to inspect and discuss.

Systems and Control

Keylink Computers Ltd

KS3, KS4, 16+

Systems and Control is a suite of applications that teaches the fundamentals of control systems. While the software is most suitable for use with classes carrying out design- and technology-based control tasks at KS3, it will undoubtedly be valuable as a tool for teaching systems and control principles to pupils undertaking GCSE design and technology (electronic products/systems and control) and GCSE physics. It is challenging and `fun' and therefore children will be motivated to experiment with the program. Differentiation and competition can be promoted by changing default settings within programs and the posing of time and function goals.

Designing and Making Automata

Software 4 Teachers

KS3, KS4, 16+

This is an interactive teaching program which includes the topics design, development, mechanisms and machines, materials and construction. Once purchased, it can be used by pupils at home as well as at school. There are help boxes which pop up, sound which can be on or off and movies which show how the popular and complex mechanisms work, making it easier for pupils to understand the concepts.

Penpals for Handwriting Year 1 CD-Rom

Cambridge-Hitachi

F, KS1, KS2

Penpals for Handwriting year 1 is a complete handwriting scheme for ages 4-9, which ensures progression from early development of gross and fine motor skills to confident letter formation and accomplished joins.

Using an interactive whiteboard provides a bright, colourful and very interactive interface which is simple to navigate both for teachers and children alike. The strength of the software at this level is the provision for sky writing and warm-ups.

Final Score

Dramatic Media

KS3, KS4

Final Score is an interactive drama that engages the user through clever use of celebrity culture and the media, raising several issues about celebrity privacy and media intrusion. The package is initially aimed at English KS4, but could easily fit into KS4 media studies and ICT. The comprehensive teacher notes and teacher and student activity sheets (all in electronic and printed format), broadcast quality video, resources CD and network version of the program certainly give plenty of opportunity for the software to be used by the whole class, by a small group of students, or by individuals studying alone.

Easiteach - English as an Additional Language (EAL)

RM

KS2, KS3

Easiteach EAL content pack provides over 90 contextually rich whole class teaching activities, designed for use with an interactive whiteboard. It aims to support pupils who speak English as an additional language, through the subject specific language of the three core subjects at KS2 & 3. Easiteach EAL is part of the Easiteach Family. A licence for Easiteach Studio is required for the computers that the EAL resources will be used on.

Stagework.org.uk

National Theatre

KS3, KS4

Stagework is a Web-based service which allows insight into the rehearsal process and the technical aspects of staging dramatic performances at the Royal National Theatre and other leading Repertory Theatres. Stagework aims to increase awareness and encourage young people to consider the theatre as a career. Stagework also offers downloadable lesson plans, units of work and video clips for teachers of English, drama and citizenship with National Curriculum links and clearly defined learning objectives.

Ziptales

Ziptales Pty Ltd

KS1, KS2, KS3

Ziptales provides innovative, exciting, interactive reading resources and materials primarily targeting Key Stage 2 children (but which are also useful for able KS1 children and KS3 children who need encouragement with reading). Along with the actual stories, there is a range of accompanying activities available, which again motivates and stimulates the reader's interest. These activities also provide on-going comprehension level assessments for the adult/teacher to enable progress to be monitored. An extra feature available on this resource is the facility to choose your own adventure.

Digital Worlds GIS for Primary Schools

Digital Worlds International

KS1, KS2

Digital Worlds is a powerful primary teaching resource which is specifically designed for the local area around your school. The collection of sources contained in the software includes: aerial photographs; satellite images; OS and historical maps; topographical images and localised census data. Maps can be manipulated and examined in any way and new layers can be placed over maps to allow highlighting to enhance analysis.

The obvious application is a local study in either geography or history, however the software includes writing lessons for the Literacy Hour, maths, music, art and citizenship.

History Live

Nelson Thornes Ltd

KS3, KS4, 16+

History Live is a unique resource of film and news footage of key events in the 20th century using hours of archive material from the ITN vaults and encompassing five CD-Roms. Students can use this material as the basis to complete assignments (several are provided) based on the main topic areas of 20th-century history. History Live is primarily aimed at Key Stage 3 students but the software is so good that it can be used by GCSE and 16+ students and should become an invaluable tool for teaching modern world history. By providing so much primary material, History Live ensures that never again will teachers of modern world history be able to complain that they are unable to teach students how to analyse, evaluate and use primary materials.

Explore KS2 History Online

Heinemann Library

KS2

Explore KS2 History Online is offers teachers and children an extensive set of historical sources, biographies, quizzes, pictures and more. It covers the main historical periods in Britain as well as looking at Ancient Greece and Egypt. The information given is extensive and has "thousands of carefully researched articles, relevant high-quality images, primary sources and activities for ICT, literacy and history" and the layout and presentation works well for adults and children alike. A collection of printable resources and activities are also provided, which are designed to be used in a sequential manner alongside the website.

ICT Connect

Rigby Educational Publishers

KS1, KS2

ICT Connect has been designed as a tool to allow teachers to plan, teach and assess ICT skills across KS1 and 2. The activities link to the ICT QCA scheme of work, give cross-curricular connections and are flexible enough to allow differentiation. The Teacher's Interactive pack contains lesson plans for each QCA unit with time-saving resources, assessment sheets and editable photocopiable masters and a Pupil Resource Book. The single-user CD contains the material from The Teacher's Notes and assessments, which are editable.

New CLAiT

Electric Paper

KS3, KS4, 16+

The New CLAiT software provides interactive multimedia demonstrations, practice tasks and sample exercises. Although aimed at the New CLAiT qualification, the course is suitable to provide basic ICT instruction to a group or to individual students. Pupils can work at their own pace and receive feedback with hints and tips, but are also told where they went wrong.

The software covers using a computer, word processing, electronic communication, charts, spreadsheets and graphs.

Smart Learning - ICT Pack Permanent - Year 1

Smart Learning Ltd

KS1

The Smart Learning range currently covers years 1-6. The program evaluated was the year 1 CD-Rom from the series which includes a CD-Rom, pupil activity books, teacher's books, photocopiable resource sheets and poster packs. It is designed to be used in conjunction with the other components offering full coverage of the QCA scheme of work for ICT.

As children work through the activities, their work will be recorded in an assessment chart which can be viewed at any time by the class teacher or administrator.

Microworlds EX Robotics Edition

Tag Learning Ltd

KS2, KS3, KS4, 16+

MicroWorlds EX Robotics Edition includes full programming capabilities for LEGO rCX - the programmable brick. The Logo-based robotics control software includes tools for project building and mathematics exploration. It is possible to write programs to make student created robotic constructions move, react to sensors, or collect data. It also allows you to develop onscreen projects, such as presentations and simulations.

EXP Maths 7

Nelson Thornes Ltd

KS3

This new maths software provides a comprehensive series of interactive activities aimed at KS3 year 7 maths students, covering algebra, number, shape, space and measures, and handling data. All the activities are cross- referenced to the National Numeracy Strategy and are fully supported by easily accessible teacher lesson notes and activities for the starter, main and plenary. Most of the activities have several levels allowing differentiation and progression.

Further information

VFull evaluations of these and many other titles are available through www.schoolzone.co.uk - just click on the evaluations link.

VSchoolzone is commissioned by the DfES to carry out independent evaluations of digital learning resources. It has a consultancy team of more than 1,500 teachers in schools around the UK and since 1997 has worked with hundreds of publishers and suppliers using the internet, e-mail and print to communicate effectively with teachers for promotional and research purposes.

For more information about Schoolzone's consultancy services or communicating with teachers, contact Philip Collie on 01242 262906 or philip@schoolzone.co.uk

Key

Resource title

Software publisher

Website (where applicable)

Recommended age group: KS1, KS2 = Key Stage 1, 2 etc

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