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More than 20 years software design experience
More than 25 years in primary and adult education
Excellent knowledge of technical issues
Always in touch with current educational thinking
Research Masters degree in On-line Learning
I began designing educational software back in 1981 on a ZX81. After a brief flirtation with the TRS80 I moved onto the BBC range of machines. At this point I was coding as well as designing. My first publication was Stig of the Dump with Sherston Software in 1986 and software design remains one of my main activities. Below you'll find a brief summary of my major releases. If you are keen to know more you can view full details including screens and some downloadable demos.
|Stig of the Dump
Stig was developed at a time when Scott Adams' text based adventures were quite popular in schools for their problem solving content. The idea was to combine those skills with comprehension and reading in a more focused way. The addition of graphics to a text adventure was, at the time, quite an innovation. This was made possible by the introduction of floppy disc drives to many machines. Stig, along with The Worst Witch and Sellardore Tails, were written using my own adventure management program which was later expanded and adapted to take advantage of the more powerful 32 bit Acorn machines. In 2000 Topologikatook up the challenge to up-date it, and pretty damned good it looks too :) More...
|The Worst Witch
Worst Witch took the Stig idea further and also made it suitable lower down the age range. Confidence in the popularity of this type of software brought higher production values and experience with Stig produced a more friendly and rounded approach to the subject matter. The reason that no further books were tackled in this way was simply because publishers, for whatever reason, became reluctant to release the software rights. It is also difficult to identify books that are widely enough read in schools to make this approach worthwhile. I am very open to suggestions in this area. It would have been great to give this the Topologika treatment too, but the rights are no longer available.More...
Everyone has a turkey and this was mine. The idea of the software is that teachers can enter events as if they were coming in over a newswire. At the time I wrote it there were several programs that did this but Teletype provided very comprehensive facilities for writing, editing and combining stories. The package was accompanied by a wide range of example files and additional files in French and German were available. The commercial failure of this package is probably down to the amount of input it require of busy teachers - a lesson was learned.
Zillion was a direct response to the introduction of the National Curriculum. By looking at the demands it made on teachers in primary science, a series of areas was identified that would be difficult to present experimentally in the classroom. To these areas I added some reinforcement activities for the more general aims of the NC. All this was wrapped up in a simple adventure format using a single key-press GUI. This was a very popular package and it is still, to my knowledge, the only one that covers the primary science (KS2) to such depth. An up-dated version is a definite possibility, but I need to get my Director or Visual Basic skills up to scratch. More...
Sellardore came from a variety of needs. First, I was keen to continue the development of my adventure management software; as no book deals were forthcoming it became clear that the solution was to write my own book. The other main need was for software that would inspire those children with reading difficulties. There was (and is) a real gap here. If children need computer based reading work, but have a reading age below their chronological age, they are likely to be faced with 'fluffy bunny' software. Sellardore aims at an interest level of 10-14 but has an independently rated reading age if less than 8 for its text. By supplying a reading book and a series of activities to be done away from the computer the package provides an integrated approach that can be integrated into the classroom, or used in withdrawal groups. A new version is available from Topologika.More...
I was convinced of the value of Logo to primary school children by the mid 80's. The problem with it's implementation at that time was that it was a computer programming language and was written as one, with all the difficulties that represents. What it needed was a more friendly interface so that children could get on with the creation of procedures without having to battle against cruel and unusual error messages and clunky editors. With the introduction of the Acorn 32 bit machines it became possible to produce a sub-set of the language with helpful additions to the way it responded to the child. ScreenTurtle, for instance, has on-line help and an input parser that will guess the meaning of miss-typed commands. While ScreenTurtle has had its rivals since its release, a consistent up-grade policy has kept it ahead of the field and it is now part of Xemplar's Primary Toolbox. More...
Again, the National Curriculum pointed out the need for a package. MusicBox addresses the problem that so many teachers have in teaching composition and music generally if they themselves have little or no musical talent. MusicBox was the first project where it became clear to me that I was not up to the programming task. So, working with Andrew Hersee, I developed a language-free musical interface providing four different activities looking at pitch, harmony, rhythm and composition. I then worked with Omnicron Technology on a PC version. This package won the Gold Award for primary software at the 1995 BETT exhibition. A completely re-written version was released for Windows 95+ in 2000.More...
Talking MathsBook and MathsBook 2 arose out of a need I identified early in my teaching career. As children begin to use vertical forms of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, there is a relativity long period of reinforcement to be undertaken that really just involves reminding them of the sequences of operations involved. MathsBook manages that part of their learning by presenting calculations at suitable levels and providing help when they go wrong. It helps the teacher by managing all its own administration - tracking a child's progress over sessions, setting difficulty and help levels and automatically providing worksheets for use away form the machine. More on Talking MathsBook...
More on MathsBook2...
Music Maker was a response to requests from KS1 teachers to support music in the way MusicBox does KS2. Working with Tod at RESOURCE, we came up with a solid games-based approach to the problem that would appeal to pre-school and infant aged children. Music Maker provides a series of games based on pitch that are progressive and introduce children to the idea of tunes. More...
|How to be Bottom
Not just a piece of software, a rather huge project set up in conjunction with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Barbican Centre. This involved me in creating a multimedia presentation on the musical instruments of Shakespeare's time, organizing a ton of clip art into My World screens and overseeing the whole project, bringing together hardware and software companies, writers, musicians, artists etc. I was even interviewed on Radio 4's Kaleidoscope!More...
|Tell a Tale
Tell a Tale is my first design for 4mation and I'm really pleased to be involved with yet anotherUK edsoft house with a great reputation for innovation and a firm grasp of what education is really about. This one has been a long time coming, but working with John Godfrey on graphics and Neil Souch on telephone has brought forth a great new reading program for early learners.
2005: Tell a Tale 2 released with exploding robots!
TextThing is an attempt to provide a very quick and easy way to produce language-based tasks from almost any text you have to hand. Thus, within literally a minute or two you can have a student working on Cloze, disclosure, prediction, spelling, punctuation etc. with content that is directly meaningful to them. There's nine tasks in all and the package comes with two interfaces to it can be used right from primary to adult and still feel age appropriate.
2006: TextThing PLUS released. This is basically the same program with all the stuff people asked for added; most changes have been to simplify the options system.
|Story Writing Scaffolds
Story Writing Scaffolds is the result of a collaboration between myself and Hopscotch. Based on their very successful paper-based materials, this package encourages kids to develop stories with the prompts provided, but adds a non-sequential approach and a couple more features to help raise their game. Fits directly into all that QCA stuff - if that's your idea of a good time :o)
2007: I've now written versions for all years 3 - 6.
TextThing MFL is a response to the government's recent excitement about modern foreign languages. It takes the updated version of textThing and adds some specific functions that assist with using foreign character sets and speech engines.More...
|Story Teller 7-12
Working once again with those nice Hopscotch people, I came up with this idea. What it does is use random(ish) pictures to inspire kids to tell (note tell, not write) stories pretty much off the tops of their heads. It's meant to provide a ballance to whole planning-in-detail stuff that they spend a lot of time on these days.More...
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