TECH NJ 2000: Vol. 11 No. 1


by Lauren R. Golden

SUBJECT: Reading, Writing, Art, and Computer Literacy

PUBLISHER: Sarahspage, Inc.

COST: $59.75 - includes CD-ROM and novel

Mac: Power PC, System 7.x or higher 16 MB RAM;
Win: 486 or higher, Windows 95 or higher, 16 MB RAM
Netscape or Internet Explorer required for both Mac and Windows versions (3.x or higher).

AGE: Suggested ages 9 and up. 11- 13 year olds primarily are found on the Sarah's Page web site.

DESCRIPTION: This unusual package, containing a novel, an interactive CD-ROM, and a link to the Sarah's Page web site, is designed to encourage girls in upper elementary and middle school to become internet enthusiasts. Sarah begins her web site with a sign that says "Welcome Technogeeks and Technophobes Alike."

The novel is about Sarah, a New York kid who is sent to live with her sister in "the Middle of Nowhere, USA" for the summer. The only thing good about Michigan, she writes, is that it has internet access. She emails her friend Katie about her adventures with Ellie, her dog, and an injured horse she befriends, and these email messages provide the foundation for the Sarah's Page web site.

The CD-ROM enables users to create their own web pages and upload them to so that other users can read them. The program easily walks users through the steps of setting up a page, adding animation, music, backgrounds, texts and links. Clear, helpful technical support is available on the web site (and via telephone), which includes a helpful glossary of common web site terms. The web site also offers entertaining and educational activities such as contests, fictional writing contributions from readers, rainy day activities, and electronic penpals called "e-buds," which provide users with a free email address. One particularly interesting section, called "Tasty Tech-y Tips," provides information on computer use that is written in language understandable to children. For example, the tip on "cleaning house" tells you "how to organize, simplify and defragment your life in Windows 95, 98 and NT!"

STRENGTHS: This combination novel and CD-ROM, with accompanying web site, is engaging and entertaining. Together they promote reading and writing, art, computer and internet use, and friendship among girls. This focus on girls and their interests is significant, since so many computer and video games are geared towards the interests of boys and recent research suggests that girls might be falling behind in technology skills. Easy to use, the software allows young users to be successful at advanced computer activities like building a web page.

[Sarah's Page]

The Sarah's Page Website

SUMMARY: Sarah's Page Web Builder engages girls in computer technology by enabling them to create and post their own web pages, email other girls, experience the internet, and learn about their own personal computers. The package builds important skills and is very easy to use. It is certainly a unique approach to the challenge of encouraging girls to develop their technological aptitude.

More journal writing software for girls...

Lauren Golden is a graduate of the M.A.T. program in the Department of Special Education at The College of New Jersey.


by Francine Kartzman

SUBJECT AREA: Social Studies, Multicultural Studies


COST: $29.95


Mac: System 7.0.1 or higher, 68040 or Power PC, 8 MB RAM, 16MB for Power PC, 2X CD-ROM drive
Win: Windows 3.1 or higher, 486 processor or better, 66 MHz or faster, 2X CD-ROM drive

OPTIONAL HARDWARE FOR ALTERNATE ACCESS: Edmark TouchWindow; built-in scanning is available for single switch users

EDUCATIONAL GOALS: Expose children to three foreign languages and cultures. Includes some skill building in math, early reading, geography, art, and problem solving.

[Dictionary Screen]

The dictionary page of ten basic Kenyan
vocabulary words in Swahili

DESCRIPTION: This is an interactive program that can

expand children's awareness of the world around them. *Three countries and their languages are featured: Argentina and the Spanish language, Japan and the Japanese language, and Kenya and the Swahili language. The vocabulary includes Number words from one to ten, ten basic vocabulary words, and ten words that are indigenous to that culture, such as poncho in Spanish. Six learning activities help young children discover how people from these three countries live, dress, sing, play and eat: building a village, making a story, singing a song, arts and crafts, and games and a dictionary.

[Kabuki Theatre]

One activity allows children to create a kabuki theatre

STRENGTHS: Travel the World with Timmy is a colorful, imaginative, and exciting way to listen to and learn about other cultures. The vocabulary and activities are appropriate for young children. The lesson format is uniform throughout the three countries, minimizing instruction time. Opportunities are presented to repeat new vocabulary. Catchy and repetitive tunes are stimulating. Spoken directions make this program an easy one for young children to play independently. The speech production is very clear and precise.

SUMMARY: This visually appealing program is an intriguing introduction to cultures of the world and diversity. The activities are easy to use, age-appropriate, and engaging for young children. Used in conjunction with other early childhood activities, such as reading stories aloud, this program can serve as an introduction to the idea that there are many other worlds out there besides a child's local community.

[Sample Program Screen]

Francine Kartzman is a speech/language therapist in the Highland Park school district in New Jersey.


by David Bailey


PUBLISHER: Sunburst Technology

COST: $59 single copy; lab packs and site licenses available


Mac: 68040 or better processor, System 7.0 or later, 2x CD-ROM or faster, microphone for recording.

DESCRIPTION: Sunbuddy Writer is a simplified word processing program designed to encourage writing in children ages 5-7. Using engaging animated characters (the "Sunbuddies" from A to Zap!), a picture toolbar, and clear spoken instructions, the program is especially helpful for nonreaders who are learning how to write. Audio prompts are provided for logging in, selecting menu items, accessing help, and making decisions about finished work. If a child cannot read the name of a feature, for example, or forgets what it does, s/he can simply move the mouse over the item and hear its name and function.

Sunbuddy Writer includes several features which are designed to encourage young children to write and get past problems of spelling and vocabulary. Fifty-seven story-starters are provided. A 160 word Word Finder can be searched by letter or theme to find rebus images to add to stories. The rebus images can then be added to stories and transformed into words with a single mouse click. Children can record their stories using their own voices. Lastly, when children print their stories they can add a border for decoration, and the program automatically prints the child's name and date at the top of the page.

[Sample Story Screen]

A sample story created with the Story Starter, "My Pet."

STRENGTHS: Sunbuddy Writer is clearly designed with the needs of young children and classroom teachers in mind. Its major strengths for young children are the helpful audio prompts, the picture tool bar, the ability to select a rebus image when a child does not know (or know how to spell) a particular word, and the ease of transforming the rebus image into a word. Its strengths for teachers include the flexibility to modify the tool bar by adding or removing features, the automatic filing of documents under students' log-in names, and the ability to complete print jobs at a later time. This last feature is especially practical in classrooms since it eliminates the problem of the classroom computer getting bogged down with printing tasks during class time.

WEAKNESSES: The recording time is limited to 30 seconds. If it takes longer to read the story, additional recorded segments can be added, which can be confusing for young users.

SUMMARY: Sunbuddy Writer is an excellent program to encourage writing in young children and to introduce them to wordprocessing. It has several features that make it especially appropriate for early childhood classrooms.

NOTE: There is a real need for a simplified wordprocessing program like Sunbuddy Writer for older students who are in the early stages of writing. If the cute animated characters could be replaced with more age- appropriate graphics, many teenagers and adults with disabilities would benefit from the spoken prompts, simplified tool bar, and ability to find words through the use of rebus images which Sunbuddy Writer provides.

Other Sunburst Programs...

David Bailey is a graduate of the M.A. T. program in Elementary Education at The College of New Jersey.


by Orah Raia

SUBJECT AREA: Pre-writing; Graphic Organizer

PUBLISHER: Inspiration Software

COST: Mac/Win CD-ROM (School version) $59.95

INTENDED AUDIENCE: Ages 9 through Adult

Mac: System 7.0 or higher, 2MB RAM
Win: Windows, 95, 98 or NT 4.0, 8 MB RAM

EDUCATIONAL GOALS: To develop ideas and organize thinking so that students can create clear, concise essays and reports; to assist with the processes of brainstorming, planning, organizing and prioritizing ideas, and outlining.

DESCRIPTION: Inspiration has two main environments: the Diagram view and the Outline view. The Diagram view allows users to create concept maps or flow charts which show how ideas relate to each other. After typing his/her ideas in any order, the user can easily rearrange and prioritize them by simply clicking and dragging and/or color coding. Then with one key stroke, the pictorial view can be converted into an outline form, which can be easily exported to any wordprocessing program to be developed into written works.

Inspiration contains over 1250 colorful, high resolution symbols which are organized into logical subject categories such as flow charting, multimedia, frames, food, animals, holidays, and people. This makes the process of finding a desired symbol very easy. Images can also be imported or drawn. The program comes with 35 templates to help students get started.

The program provides several tools which make it easy to generate ideas and organize them. The Diagram tool bar includes a rapid-fire option which allows the user to type in ideas quickly, as is often needed during brainstorming; a new symbol is automatically created for each individual idea. Another tool lets the user quickly choose the direction in which a new symbol should be connected, with options for right, left, up, down, either in a straight or diagonal direction. Users have an option to add text notes to individual symbols (these notes can be a few sentences or entire paragraphs of information), and a link tool allows the user to show the relationship between symbols.

The Draw tool bar allows the drawing of shapes and free-form lines, adding text boxes, nudging the symbols one pixel at a time, and changing the fill and line colors of the symbols.

STRENGTHS: Inspiration is an extremely helpful tool for students with learning disabilities who struggle with organizing their ideas and writing. College students and adults who are strong visual learners find it indispensable for creating quality written work. The software's intuitive interface makes it easy-to-use and frees users to concentrate on their ideas.

Inspiration's 35 templates help students get acquainted with concept mapping and graphic organizers. Specific examples in language arts, social studies, science and planning are included to encourage even more ideas, and the Inspiration web site provides additional examples by Inspiration users. An interactive step-by-step tutorial called Exploring Inspiration, which helps new users get started, is included in the software package. The latest 6.0 version of the program adds two helpful internet features: images from the web can be placed directly into Inspiration documents and URL hyperlinks can be integrated into both the Diagram and Outline views.

SUMMARY: Inspiration is an outstanding program which introduces users to visual learning methods such as concept mapping, webbing and brainstorming. It is an extremely useful tool which can be used for many different purposes, including story maps, sequencing, adapting worksheets, Individualized Education Plans, lesson plans, and research outlines. It is so easy to use and flexible that it can be appropriate for teaching young students the beginnings of a story map (see example below), involving middle school students in the pre-writing process, and providing college students with an effective tool for planning and organizing research papers. Anyone who hesitates (or freezes) when faced with a blank page or computer screen will find Inspiration invaluable.

[Inspiration - Example 1]

Example 1

Orah Raia is an alumna of the M.A.T. program in Special Education at The College of New Jersey.

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