Fall 1998, Vol. 10 No. 1


by Debra Radice


Sunburst Communications, Inc.

COST: $79.00


System 7.0 or higher, 8 MB RAM, CD-ROM drive.
Win: Windows 3.1 or higher, 8MB RAM, CD-ROM drive.

DESCRIPTION: Fraction Attraction provides a stimulating environment where students can explore critical fraction concepts including: ordering, equivalence, relative size, understanding fractions as representing distance on a number line, addition and subtraction of fractions, and "counting on" fractions.

Fraction Attraction opens with Gilda, a cheerful alligator who acts as a carnival barker, inviting students to participate in one of four familiar arcade/boardwalk games.

Frac Trac is a representation of the game in which players shoot water at a target to move race horses from start to finish. In Place Horses, the student must analyze the fractions/decimals illustrated on the horses' blankets and predict the finishing order. In Place Jockey, the order of finish is predetermined, and the student must place the correct number on the horse to match the finishing order. The game addresses the concept of a fraction representing a specific distance, as opposed to simply a point, on a number line. It also introduces students to "counting on" incrementally with fractions, decimals, and percents.

In Frac-o-Wheel the student must move the ferris wheel clockwise or counter-clockwise to unload passengers from the ride. The ferris wheel has between 4-12 chairs. When it is time to unload a chair, it will flash. The object is to move the chair to the ground in the fewest number of moves. The student must fill in a missing component (numerator, denominator, or both) and select the direction to turn the wheel. This game is designed to provide multiple representations of a fraction, to introduce the concept of equivalence, to foster fraction recognition, and to introduce addition and subtraction with fractions.

Whack-a Frac, the ever-popular "Whack-a-Mole" game, addresses equivalence of fractions, decimals and percents. A target fraction/decimal is represented, and the "Fracs" pop up with a fraction/decimal on their shirts and holding Yes and No placards. The student must determine if the number on the shirt equates to the target number and whack Yes or No. The game can be timed or untimed.

Fuzzy Fracs Game
The goal is to knock down the Fuzzy Fracs in order from smallest to largest in this game of Fuzzy Fracs.

Fuzzy Fracs deals with concepts of ordering and relative size of fractions, decimals and percents, e.g., Where does one fraction fall in relation to another fraction? Why is one-half larger than one-third? This is the game where the object is to knock over the animals with a baseball to win a prize. Here, the "Fracs" have fractions/decimals on their shirts, and the student must knock them over in sequential order, either smallest to largest or vice versa.

STRENGTHS: Fraction Attraction provides a colorful, fun and exciting way to learn about fractions. The non-threatening environment draws students in and keeps their interest. It is adaptable to students' different learning styles, levels and needs. Each game has difficulty levels, allowing for individual customization.

Problem-specific diagnostic help is available to support students as they learn. If a student is having difficulty solving a problem, the program provides a detailed analysis of the solution. Another very nice component to this software program is the clearly written teacher's guide with 22 "very cool" extension activity worksheets.

WEAKNESSES: As the difficulty level increases, distractible students may have trouble with the cluttered screen.

SUMMARY: This fun, colorful program helps students strengthen their understanding of critical concepts related to fractions. The use of arcade-style games adds humor and entertainment to a subject many students find overwhelming. Teachers and parents will appreciate the customizing features and the quality of the program's instructional design.

Debra Radice is a graduate student in the Department of Special Education at The College of New Jersey.

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by Susan Eckstein


COST: Single Module $49 - $59 each; Lab Packs $147 - $177 per 5-pack


68030 25 MHz or higher, System 7.1 or later, QuickTime for Macintosh 2.5, 4.7 MB RAM
Win: 386/33 MHz or higher for Windows 3.1; 486/33 or higher for Windows 95, 8 MB RAM, Sound Blaster compatible sound card, speakers
Both: 2X CD-ROM drive, 256 color monitor - 13" or larger, microphone, printer recommended

EDUCATIONAL GOALS: To strengthen the understanding of phonograms (word families) and to provide reading and writing opportunities using this skill.

DESCRIPTION: 'Tronic Phonics is a comprehensive interactive basal type reading program. Fourteen CD-ROMs are available, each focusing on 3-4 specific phonograms. Each lesson targets one phonogram and presents it through a reading section, a set of instructional phonics activities, and a story making activity.

In the story "Molly May" children discover words from the -ay family as they enjoy a story set by the sea.
Tronic Phonics Screenshot

The reading section is an interactive storybook. The stories are read by a narrator. The narration speed can be adjusted, and the text can be underlined as each word is spoken. The stories are filled with rhymes using the targeted phoneme. The text is simple, and the stories are fun and loaded with educational surprises. Students can elect to have words repeated. When a targeted word is selected, the student is reinforced with special sound effects. Throughout the story, students can select "spotlighted" words to learn interesting facts.

The phonics activity first provides practice listening to the targeted sound. A "key word" is presented, and students must listen for words that rhyme. The rhymes are also presented visually to help the students develop spelling patterns. Incorrect responses are spoken auditorially, and the instructions are repeated. Correct answers are rewarded with sound effects and animations. Next, students practice blending/decoding skills by choosing new letters to join the phoneme to create new words. Incorrect responses are not blended, and the students are told that although their answer may rhyme, it is not a real word. The last phonics activity allows students to write their own rhyme or sentence and use the record function to hear themselves read their creation. A help feature is available to provide hints throughout the phonics activities.

The Make-A-Book section lets students write and illustrate their own stories or change the existing one. The paint feature contains numerous drawing tools and colors, as well as stickers for young authors. They can click on the speaker to have their story read aloud.

STRENGTHS: 'Tronic Phonics provides students with many opportunities to practice targeted sounds. The lesson format is uniform throughout the series, minimizing instruction time. The tool bar is "child-friendly," and students can make lots of independent choices. Being able to adjust the narration speed is a helpful feature for children with reading difficulties.

Graphics are large and colorful, and choices become "spotlighted" as the cursor passes over them for easy identification. Instructions are clear and concise.

The package comes with a soft cover book of the story, so students can add them to their "library" of knowledge.

WEAKNESSES: Students must be able to use a mouse.

SUMMARY: 'Tronic Phonics is an excellent series for teaching reading through phonograms. It goes beyond most phonics software by providing opportunities for students to experience word families in context, i.e., they first play with interactive storybooks which utilize the targeted phonogram, and after they practice blending/decoding, they can write and illustrate their own stories using the phonograms they just learned. This provides a nice bridge between phonics skills and a whole language approach to reading instruction. Together the 14 CD-ROMs offer a comprehensive package for the teaching of reading in the primary grades.

Susan Eckstein is a graduate student in the Department of Special Education at The College of New Jersey.

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By Lauren R. Golden

SUBJECT AREA: Writing and Illustrating

PUBLISHER: The Learning Company
(800) 685-6322

COST: $24.95


68030/25 MHz or better, 8 MB RAM with 4 MB available (5 MB available for Power Macintosh), 2X CD-ROM drive, 256-color monitor, System 7.1 or higher.
Win: 486 DX/33 MHz, 8 MB RAM, 2X CD-ROM drive, Windows 3.1 or higher, Windows-compatible sound card, 256 color VGA monitor.

DESCRIPTION: Paint, Write & Play! is a program that encourages young children to write and illustrate their own stories. The main screen opens to The Village. From here students can visit three centers: The Travel Center, the Art Studio and the Writing House.

Students choose backgrounds, such as this Artic Scene, in the Travel Center.

The Travel Center provides story ideas for young writers. Students can explore ten different places such as home scenes (e.g., bedroom, basement, living room, etc.) and environmental scenes (e.g., the Arctic and Africa). When students come across a word they do not know, a simple mouse click provides the correct pronunciation and a definition. If they like, they can add the word to their "personal word list."

In the Art Studio students can illustrate their stories. They can use the clip art provided or create their own illustrations.

Illustration Screenshot

For illustrating stories, students can choose from fun color palettes, such as this selection representing "sunny day" colors.

The clip art consists of environmental backdrops and characters. If students want to create their own illustrations, the program provides paint brushes, stamps and patterns. The program pronounces the names of the colors when the mouse passes over them.
Students compose their stories in the Writing House. Students can use their personal word list and/or illustrations as a beginning point, or they can just begin to write. Writers can view the text as it will appear underneath each illustration, or they can view the layout of the entire story using a storyboard. They can listen to their stories being read aloud by the program.

STRENGTHS: The Travel Center environments are stimulating and can help expand students' imaginations. Each environment provides its own unique vocabulary. The sound effects and animations are entertaining and engaging without being distracting. The Art Studio provides an extensive choice of 48 "kid colors," such as grape, sunshine and cotton candy.

The program provides auditory feedback by reading aloud students' stories. Teachers can customize the program to correspond to classroom assignments by controlling the length of the story, the vocabulary and the layout.

SUMMARY: Paint, Write & Play! is a fun, easy-to-use program that taps into children's imaginations to help them create and illustrate stories. Pick-and-click word lists help early writers add words to stories without typing, and the text-to-speech feature lets students hear their stories read aloud.

Lauren R. Golden is a graduate student in the Department of Special Education at The College of New Jersey.

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by Francine Kartzman

SUBJECT AREA: Expressive Language

Laureate Learning Systems

COST: $125 Mac/Win CD-ROM (available January 1999), Mac disks, DOS disks

INTENDED AUDIENCE: Children ages 2-6 with developmental disabilities, language-learning disabilities, physical and visual impairments, and autism

Mac CD-ROM: System 7.5 or later, Power PC (some 68040 processor models), 8 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM
Win CD-ROM: Pentium 90 MHz or higher, Win 95 or later, 16 MB RAM, Windows compatible sound card, 800 x 600 SVGA graphics monitor
Mac disk version: System 7.5 or later, minimum 68040 processor, 8 MB RAM
DOS disk version: Sound Blaster card (or 100% compatible)
All: Microphone, 13" or larger color monitor

OPTIONAL HARDWARE: Touch screen, single switch

EDUCATIONAL GOALS: To encourage children to practice a variety of vocalization skills and to experiment with the duration, pitch, and volume of their utterances.

DESCRIPTION: TalkTime with Tucker is a voice activated software program. Tucker, an animated character, moves and talks when children talk or make sounds into a microphone. This program does not require precise, accurate speech input. Almost any utterance produces an appropriate response.

Talktime Screenshot
Tucker commands the animals to perform tricks when children make sounds in the Amazing Animal Show.

For non-vocal children, single switch input activates Tucker. This encourages turn-taking and gives them the experience of participating in conversation.

Five adventure activities accommodate a range of children at different functioning levels:

STRENGTHS: TalkTime with Tucker can be individualized for children with a broad range of disabilities. The sensitivity of the microphone can be adjusted, as can the amount of response time required, the length of time children must speak, and how quickly the program responds when children stop speaking. The program also contains an invaluable recordkeeping tool that tracks children's progress. This log can be printed or cut and pasted into a wordprocessing document so that individual notes can be added.

WEAKNESSES: Some of the speech output may be difficult for children with hearing impairments to understand.

SUMMARY: TalkTime with Tucker is visually appealing, imaginative and colorful, but at the same time the screen remains uncluttered. The activities are easy to use and engaging for young children. The customizable options and recordkeeping features make this program a good choice for speech/language specialists to use for encouraging expressive language in young children.

Tiger's Tale
Francine Kartzman is a Speech/Language Therapist who completed a graduate course in Assistive Technology at The College of New Jersey.

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by Theresa R. Lupo

SUBJECT AREA: Switch Training, Cause and Effect, Early Scanning

Inclusive Technology available from IntelliTools

COST: $49.95 each for disk version or $180.00 for the 4-program bundle on CD-ROM


EDUCATIONAL GOALS: To develop the concepts of cause and effect, scanning, turn-taking, and switch training.

Mac: LCIII or better, System 7 or higher, 8MB RAM, CD-ROM drive for bundle.
Win: Windows 3.1 or higher, 8 MB RAM, Win compatible sound card/speakers, SVGA monitor, CD-ROM drive for bundle

DESCRIPTION: This series provides switch users with four lively and colorful programs for entertainment and switch training.

In Pictures users develop awareness of cause and effect. They are prompted to press the switch to build common objects one click at a time. Each click is followed by the addition of an item to the scene. When the task is complete, users are rewarded with a lively and amusing animation.

Patterns builds upon cause and effect awareness by encouraging users to build 10 geometric patterns by pressing the switch. This activity has three levels of complexity built in. Upon completion of the pattern, students are rewarded with vibrant color changes, movement and music. Patterns offers a variety of color schemes, including black and white, vivid, metallic, pastel, and monochrome. Pattern complexity and movement speed may also be customized. The black and white setting may be particularly helpful for users with low vision.

Scenes promotes turn-taking as users add new elements to familiar scenes. Completed scenes are rewarded with animated sequences. Customized switch colors let each user know whose turn it is.

Opposites introduces users to early learning concepts through simple scanning. The blue monster leads users to explore big/little, up/down, in/out, open/closed and hot/cold through a variety of scenes. Comical animation rewards correct choices. Two to four objects appear on the screen. After several successful presentations of 2 objects, the program will automatically introduce 3, then 4. Opposites allows scan speed and repeat rate to be customized, as well as allowing auditory, text cuing or both.

STRENGTHS: Probably the most exciting feature for teachers is the ease with which these programs can be customized. They can change speed and response time, number of switch clicks, text/speech or both, and which concepts will be practiced, all from one readily accessible menu. The scene's background color, switch cap color and even scan box color can be customized. The error indicator, an animated "Uh-uh," from the blue monster, may also be turned off. Customized settings can be saved for individual users. Clip art is provided so flash cards or classroom materials can be created using the characters and objects in the programs.

Students may enjoy the simple scenes and clear feedback for both correct and incorrect responses. Users are prompted to click the appropriate switch, first with a picture of the switch, then an animated picture and finally an auditory reminder. Users may also view a word or picture menu for selecting their activities.

WEAKNESSES: Activities from the menu cannot be selected with a switch; a mouse click is required.
SUMMARY: These four simple programs teach cause and effect, switch use and early scanning through a variety of activities. The clear, immediate feedback, prompting schedule and amusing animation are sure to motivate students to build switch use skills. Teachers will enjoy the ease with which they can modify the programs to meet individual user needs.

Theresa R. Lupo is an alumna of the graduate program in Special Education at The College of New Jersey.

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