2Simple beat Microsoft to the cloud, and Chris Drage is impressed by the result – Purple Mash
You have to hand it to 2Simple. This small UK creative software publisher has achieved a task that many bigger companies with massive resources have struggled with – made the treats, tricks and triumphs of its lauded 'hard disc' programs available to any teacher and learner using a web browser. It's risen to the cloud!
Welcome to the world of "apptivities" that is Purple Mash, 2Simple’s successful, cross-curricular online space. It's been built on the achievements of programs like 2DIY and the feedback from schools and users, and gives customers even more – to use at school and at home.
it continues to evolve and develop. It has a new look and feel and much improved navigation. It also has a number of new and very interesting activities and there are moves afoot to improve even on this.
Purple Mash now comprises a much wider range of tools and "apptivities" which are now organised into easy to navigate themes. In order to simplify finding a particular apptivity on Purple Mash, 2Simple has enabled three separate ways to find the resources you require. You can browse by simply clicking into each of the themes and categories to see apptivities grouped according to theme, most popular, age range or the newest. You can explore the resource by hovering the mouse pointer on any of the icons to display further information such as a learning objective and target age ranges. Third, a search box is provided on the home screen to enable users to locate apptivities by typing key words.
From the revamped front screen all the activities are immediately available and new ones recently added are highlighted. Clicking on "Latest Activitie" leads to an "Our Latest Apptivities" page where the week's new items are assembled in topics. I particularly like the Phases’ links at the bottom of the page where all the activities pertinent to a particular age group can be found quickly and easily. Again, by hovering the pointer over an activity reveals a brief explanation of its related subject, content, and target age range - slick, simple and effective.
The activities now span all the phases from nursery upwards and Purple Mash is now packed with multitude of themes and topics, all curriculum related, as you would expect from 2Simple Software. A recent addition which took my eye is Purple Mash Cams, an activity which could really encourage young writers. Sporting 18 different personas ranging from a Roman to an astronaut, with the Purple Mash Cams apptivity and a webcam, children can snap their portrait and it will appear in the face area of the on-screen character.
The result is a screen where the character with the user’s face appears with a suitable background, sporting a large, blank, speech bubble, just inviting the child to add some speech or description to the scene. In keeping with 2Simple’s code of e-safety the completed pictures cannot appear online. For me another of the star activities has to be 2Design and Make as it encourages children to design an artefact on-screen, examine its net, see it ‘spin’ in 3D, print out its net and make it. True CAD! 2D&M really helps children visualise the transition from 2D to 3D and if teacher needs to create nets of common 3D shapes in maths, with the resulting solid on display as well, then this apptivity is just begging!
Another new and really creative activity is 2DIY 3D – a tool that lets your pupils create and share their own 3D maze games. What is 100 per cent better than children simply playing games? It’s children creating and sharing their own games. 2DIY 3D is based on the original award-winning 2Do It Yourself program. 2DIY 3D takes one part of the original 2DIY program, the “maze”, and turns it into a 3D maze. You can design your maze by adding walls, as well as apples to collect and ‘baddies’ to avoid.
You can customise each object. For example, you can give each one an animation. You can also add instructions for your game. Toggling between the 2D maze and the 3D version is very simple, making editing/alterations and trialling very easy. A clock on the top right corner of the screen works to increase or decrease game time allowed. You can add a message and attach a sound which will play when the time is up. You can change the number of lives the player has to start off with. You can add a message and attach a sound which will play when the player loses all lives.
An ‘Info’ screen gives you the opportunity to create instructions for the game whilst a ‘spanner’ icon on the top right to change between ‘high’, ‘medium’ and ‘low’ quality depending on how powerful the host computer is. You can press the Save button and save work online and press the World button to share the game with others. Why I am impressed with this apptivity is not simply because it’s a great maze game as it stands, but as the background and characters can be changed it can be used to support as story. The TES' Bev Evans, a teacher at Pembroke Dock Community School in Wales, explains: “We used the apptivity to support the story of The Gruffalo. We had the children collecting foxes and snakes.” 2DIY 3D presents good opportunities for collaborative projects.
There is already the potential for collaboration in established apptivites like 2Investigate. Being online, it allows schools to collaborate on building and sharing data. However, 2Simple has plans for more collaboration in various apptivities planned for launch at BETT 2012. Watch this space!
This is by no means the extent of the new items in Purple Mash. Do check out the ‘Write a Post Card’ apptivity which provided 27 templates spread over five separate themes. Similarly, 2Simple has been working with children’s author Johnny Zucker who, using the theme "Alien Invasion" as a stimulus, encourages children to write newspaper reports, create a survival guide, radio script and write 140 character ‘tweet’ style messages. There are word banks, and sentence starters too, to assist the less able.
Having a resource like Purple Mash at school is one thing, but also by allowing children to log on at home opens up a world of opportunity. As Bev Evans explains: “When we started using Purple Mash we had a lot of parental interest and comments. Parents really liked the fact that children could log on to Purple Mash at home, show their work, open saved projects and carry on working or start new projects.
"Many commented that their children were now choosing to engage online in activities that were creative, educational, safe to explore and could be used independently or with support. The school has an integrated Autistic Centre and pupils from the centre began to engage in ICT in a way they never had before, choosing and exploring different ICT-based activities and happy to try out new things. Some of these pupils went from having an intense like of ICT-based learning to saying it was their favourite subject. That's quite something!”
Without a doubt, 2Simple has continued to stay rooted in its values and the guiding principle that children are at the centre of what the company does. The vehicle or media may change, as does the educational environment, but essentially learners stay the same and, clearly, it is on them that 2Simple focuses its products.
As Nigel Canin, 2Simple’s co-founder points out: “We try to keep children at the centre of our thinking. We try to make opportunities for kids to love what they do and are learning – those two things are really important. We can’t do much for the rest of it. We can’t control the government’s decisions, the economy or market trends. What we can try to do here is the very best we can with the resources we’ve got to help learners, teachers and parents.”
It is by keeping children at the centre of its philosophy that 2Simple Software’s products have such enduring value to education. Remember, accessed through any web browser, the Purple Mash licence entitles a school not only across its site but for everyone at school to use at home as well, and that represents great value for money.
Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose 5
Ease of use 5
Value for money 5
A comprehensive suite of internet-based highly imaginative multimedia software for creative use in the primary curriculum: one-year licence £500.