Chris Drage finds his old gaming favourites on VLEs, courtesy of Birchfield

Screen Birchfield games softwareBirchfield Interactive’s new Virtual Learning Environment Games and Question Editing Software aims to convince students to log on to a learning platform from home to revise and extend their learning by making it fun.

It's vital for school VLEs to be populated with motivating materials. Not only should they be capable of meeting learning objectives; they should also be engaging, especially for disaffected learners. With 100 per cent curriculum coverage Birchfield Interactive is attempting just that.

Chris Drage discovers a new digital media friend for school and home - Western Digital's WD TV HD Media Player

Western Digital WD TV HD Media PlayerWestern Digital WD TV HD Media PlayerSometimes I wondered why I agreed to review what is, on first sight, just a diminutive, black box. Measuring only 100mm long x 126mm wide x 40mm high and weighing in at 304 grams, the WD TV HD Media Player appears nondescript enough. However, over a period of weeks this little media player certainly won not just my approval but my total admiration for its capabilities.

SMART TableSMART Table: 'falls well short'The SMART Table, a 'first impression' hit at the BETT 2009 exhibition, has failed to prove its value in one of its first classroom evaluations.

Teacher Tom Barrett, who was provided with one at his school, Priestsic Primary in Sutton-in-Ashfield, by SMART distributor Steljes, delivered his first verdicts last week: "At the moment the SMART Table is not worth the money... it falls well short of delivering value for money. There is an awful lot you could do with £5,000 that would make a far greater impact on learning in schools." (Update: the pilot, which was due to continue next term, has been cut short.)

By George Cole

New Sony Pocket e-bookNew Sony Pocket e-bookHow do you like your books - dead trees or digital?  Printed books are being challenged by a new generation of electronic books - e-books. On paper (no pun intended), e-books have advantages over print, as well as much educational potential. E-book readers - like the Sony Reader and Irex Technologies’ Iliad (reviews below) - can store thousands of books so, in theory, it’s goodbye to students carting around back-breaking sets of books in their rucksacks.

What is more, the latest e-book readers use electronic ink (e-ink) displays. These offer better contrast than LCD screens and are less power hungry, because they don’t require a backlight. This means batteries can be made smaller and lighter – and they last much longer.

The range and the stability of free software has improved and is improving. Here are some, recommended by Jack Kenny,  that you might not have discovered yet.


One teacher told me: “Jing takes the pain out of explaining processes on a computer. I can explain how to do something on the computer and record the explanation which is then available so that I don’t have to keep repeating it.” The free program enables any one to make a short recording of activity on the desk top. It also enables students to create explanations too.  Simple and ingenious.