John Galloway on a new tool to help teachers with quick resources creation
Screen Matrix MakerA quick and easy way to create classroom resourcesNo prizes for guessing what Inclusive Technology's new Matrix Maker does. But there might be one for working out how many 'matrices' are on offer to schools. A term that's used loosely, it covers everything from communication grids, to certificates, matching games, worksheets – even game boards like Ludo. What they have in common is that each involves some kind of grid, usually combining text, graphics, and, sometimes, symbols too.

The point is to give staff a way of making creative, effective, resources quickly and easily. Matrix Maker does this by providing numerous templates, along with a library of graphics, another one of symbols (more than 15,000 in all), and tools to add text.

As well as the bank of media provided, you can bring in any images you like, including ones instantaneously grabbed from the internet through a live search facility. Editing tools include flipping, turning, recolouring and blending in the background colours. Similarly text can be reformatted, enlarged, shrunk, and re-coloured, with options to change the font and the background colour, too.

'Simplicity is the key to this software'

Once inserted labels and images can be moved around with a simple drag. Simplicity is the key to this software, although that can mean learning to do things differently. When entering text, for instance, it doesn't resize automatically if you are running out of room, you have to change the font size and then carry on. Neither can the cells be re-sized.

There are four menus – Pictures, Edit, Text, Save and Print – presented ribbon-style across the top of the screen, each with sub-menus of actions. So Text, for example, includes Growing, Shrinking, Adding, Removing and so on. It is a case of choosing a cell then choosing an action. Once you get the hang of it, it is easy enough.

Adding images or symbols is aided by a search facility that will include results on a similar theme. Entering "water" for instance, will also bring up "ice cubes", and "iceberg". The only puzzlement here was the Backgrounds folder, as there seems to be no way of putting a background on to any of the matrix templates.

As an aid to creating fixed formats of printed materials in class this is very useful software. With nine initial categories, each broken down into sub-groups, you can probably find almost anything you want. In "Communication books and boards", for instance, there are 17 subsets, such as "Eye pointing books" (which itself has six layouts).

One percieved drawback could be that you can't start from scratch – you have to use a template. However, the handbook suggests you, "Give us a call," if there are any layouts for communication aids that aren't included.

Overall, Matrix Maker will speed up classroom production of all sorts of materials to aid inclusion, providing well formatted, quality materials, for almost any purpose. Fast. And you can try it for free in a two week trial.

Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose  4
Ease of use              4
Features                   4
Quality                      4
Value for money       5

Matrix Maker

Windows software that uses grids, with text and images, to help teacheres with quick creation of learning resources, from £49, school licences available (see product demonstration below).

John GalowayJohn Galloway works as advisory teacher for ICT/SEN and inclusion in Tower Hamlets, London, and as a freelance writer and consultant. He is the author of Harnessing Technology for Every Child Matters and Personalised Learning and runs his own blog.

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