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Aspex Draw

  1. Published by Aspex Software

  2. KS 1-4 (Years 1 - 11)

  3. Art & Design, Design & Technology, ICT & Mathematics

KS2 Content Evaluation by Kevin Jones

AspexDraw supports learning in ICT and Art and Design. It offers the user a full toolbox with which to create, combine and manipulate objects into designs at a higher level of quality than would be expected from non-computer based resources.
Its strong features for classroom use are its range of tools and the ease with which children can get satisfyingly professional looking results. The clipart section for designing living spaces is also a strong feature. It can be used equally effectively as an activity loaded on to a standalone PC in the classroom, or as a whole class lesson on a networked suite. In order for teachers to use this product effectively, they should be reasonably familiar with the usual conventions of PC-based Art packages, e.g. dragging and dropping, and highlighting objects.

Installation was generally performed satisfactorily. I was asked to restart the computer three times before all the required modifications to the configuration were made, but this is only time consuming; it isn't a major fault with the program. Also, if the computer happens to already have the correct configuration, it can be installed without having to restart at all. I successfully uninstalled the program through the 'Add/Remove Programs' application in the Control Panel. This took me straight to AspexDraw's own uninstaller and removing the program was simply a matter of clicking the mouse.

Loading the program is pretty much immediate. There are no large images, or other data to access before the program opens. Once it is installed on the hard drive, AspexDraw can be opened without the CD-ROM. The program responds immediately to input from a user.


Curriculum Relevance
As I have mentioned, AspexDraw lends itself particularly well to ICT tasks that require an object-based design package. From the ICT Programme of Study, this title could be used to support: preparing information for development using ICT (1b), developing and refining ideas by bringing together, organising and reorganising text (and) images (2a), sharing and exchanging information in a variety of forms (3a), working with others to explore a variety of...ICT tools (5b) and investigating and comparing the uses of ICT inside and outside of school (5c). In addition, there are elements of the Art and Design Curriculum, which could also be supported by this software: use a variety of methods and approaches to communicate observations, ideas and feelings and to design and make images (2c), adapt their work according to their views (3b), (understand) visual elements, including colour (and) pattern, line and tone, shape, form and space and how these elements can be combined and organised for different purposes (4a), use a range of materials and processes, including ICT (5c). The Design and Technology Curriculum is also supported: use finishing techniques to strengthen and improve the appearance of their product, using a range of equipment including ICT (2e).

Using AspexDraw will strengthen a child's understanding of how ICT can be used to aid design and produce designs that are of a higher quality and accuracy than the child might be capable of independently. It will also support their basic ICT-literacy, in that they will have plenty of practice using icons, drop down menus and dragging and dropping skills.
Design & Navigation
The design and navigation of AspexDraw will be familiar to anyone who has used any kind of drawing package before. For those who haven't, the icons and menus are helpful and straightforward to use. The icons are all meaningful representations of the tools they represent and the vocabulary in the menus is accessible to children.

Children can easily save and recall their previous work, allowing design projects to be spread over a number of sessions. The title is genuinely interactive, in that they can use the elements available (shapes, lines, clipart etc) in an unlimited variety of combinations to fulfil a wide range of design projects.

Ease of Use
AspexDraw is designed for a pupil to use, although I'm sure many teachers would also find it useful for creating classroom materials. Once some of the more specialised features have been explained (such as grading objects, layering and merging), children can access the software with very little dependence on the teacher. Ease of use is further enhanced by an option that allows the teacher to customise the toolbar for younger children, giving them only the basic drawing functions, but with larger, more accessible icons.

The supporting documentation is helpful in that it explains how to use the various tools and functions, but there really is no substitute for using the instruction book as a starting point, then exploring for yourself. Also, the instruction book is going to be considerably more useful if used by the teacher to gain knowledge, which he, or she then imparts to the children in more accessible language.

Special Needs
In my experience, drawing programs never lend themselves particularly well to use by children with physical Special Educational Needs: mouse control needs to be too precise, icons are usually too small and the success of the finished product relies almost solely on the child being able to see what they are putting on the screen as they do it. However, there do seem to be one, or two ways in which AspexDraw can support these children. First, there is the customisable toolbar with larger options that I have just mentioned. Secondly, there is the clipart, which allows children who struggle with drawing and representation (especially if done with something as troublesome as a mouse) to select pre-drawn objects and simply place them in position. Thirdly, there is an alignment tool ('Align selection') that will line objects up for you in a variety of ways, which saves having to drag and drop the object a fraction of a centimetre and judging by eye whether you have got it right.

There is a set of fifty onscreen worksheets for children included in AspexDraw. They are easily accessed by a 'Get worksheets' icon and are sorted by subject: Design, Maths, ICT and Patterns. The 'Design' worksheets give you the opportunity to design a garden, or a classroom, dress a man, or create a house to cut out. They do not seem to be graded by difficulty, nor are there right, or wrong answers. They do provide the children with a structured focus for a particular design task and they are presented well. In addition, the 'Template' option gives the teacher the ability to adapt this type of activity to a number of other design tasks. As such, these sets of worksheets are a welcome addition to AspexDraw. So too are the ICT sheets because they focus on the specific skills you may need to develop when using AspexDraw. Children can practice colouring, moving and rotating, resizing and combining skills in a structured and motivating way. For example, one worksheet requires the child to move pre-selected shapes to create an owl picture. Another uses copy and paste to give a bare tree some leaves. These activities would be excellent for developing children's mouse control and ICT-literacy skills before they go on to make their own designs. The Maths sheets however, are more of the same. A typical exercise might be moving a set of triangles around to create an octagon. It might be argued that the children are demonstrating some knowledge of the properties of shapes, were it not for the fact that the worksheet helpfully displays what the finished shape should look like. Besides, there are probably better ways of developing knowledge of shape and space than this. The value in it is, like the ICT sheets, in practising basic mouse control and menu commands. The 'Patterns' sheets suffer from the same sort of problem, although they are slightly more useful in that they address simple tessellation. AspexDraw won't keep track of the progress that children have made on the worksheets, but they can all be saved by the children, or printed out for the teacher to check.

AspexDraw contains many features that make it a powerful tool when teaching graphical modelling to Key Stage 2 children. It is relatively simple to use once you have had time to explore all the tools, options and menus, but it can also be accessed by younger children thanks to the customisable toolbar. The addition of clipart turns a drawing package into a user-friendly, but powerful design package and children love using this particular feature to consider the design of their own environments. The worksheet element is a novel and welcome addition and in most parts is successful. I did feel that the 'Maths' sheets were there just to improve Curriculum coverage however and mathematically, weren't particularly well thought out. Despite this, I shall be using AspexDraw in my classroom a great deal this year, as I have found it to be a user-friendly, effective addition to our software library.

KS2 Content Evaluation by Lesley Studley

AspexDraw is a drawing program designed to assist younger operators to create and develop their own designs. It includes a variety of tools for drawing objects: lines, curves, ellipses, rectangles, a variety of shapes and text. A drawing can consist of a number of objects, which can either be manipulated separately, or as a complete image. The objects can be coloured, edited, moved, rotated, scaled, flipped, grouped together and distorted.

The title was used to investigate the functions of a drawing program; to use a graphics package to develop images; to utilise a variety of tools to create, develop and manipulate images. The children were able to compare use of the title with Paint and Paintbrush packages and explore a number of different effects while drawing pictures.

AspexDraw includes its own unique collection of clipart, which can be used to design rooms found in the home: the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen and lounge. It also contains a number of onscreen worksheets which can be used to support younger users in developing their techniques.

The product is simple and easy to use in the Primary classroom after demonstration of the toolbar and icons and discussion of the task. A single classroom-based computer, linked to a projector was used for demonstration purposes and then a bank of four workstations was used by an individual, or pairs of children to experiment with the software and develop their design talents for the purpose of this evaluation.

AspexDraw should start automatically once the CD-ROM is inserted into the CD-ROM drive. If not, click on Start, Run and type d:\setup.exe (where D is the letter of your CD-ROM drive) and click OK. Then follow the onscreen instructions. Create a shortcut to the software on the desktop and click to start the program. The first time, you will be asked to enter your Registration/Serial number, which is on the enclosed licence.

The product loads quickly and easily.

I am not aware of any conflicts with other programs at this time, as the manufacturers have recently updated the software.

Uninstall is straightforward through Control Panel/Add/Remove.


Curriculum Relevance
AspexDraw is a simple, easy to use vector drawing program, which enables children to create drawings using lines, curves, rectangles, ellipses and text and provides a number of tools for young designers to develop their editing skills, thus supporting the graphical modelling strand of the National Curriculum for ICT (Curriculum 2000 ICT: 2a, 4b, 5b).

AspexDraw can be used to support the requirement for using a graphics package to model ideas and develop designing skills. The children can learn to use an object-based graphics package to produce images and visual models; they learn the key differences between a vector drawing program and a paint package, as well as the difference between vector images and bitmap images.

The software links easily to the Art and Design, as well as Shape and Space aspect of Mathematics in the National Curriculum.
Design & Navigation
Setting a shortcut on the desktop and then clicking on the AspexDraw icon is the simplest way to open the program. After loading AspexDraw, a drawing page appears in the middle of the screen. Multiple pages can be added by clicking the arrow buttons at the top and right-hand side of the page, if you are designing a poster, or a banner. The page can be set as either portrait, or landscape by using the 'Page Set-up' option in the 'File' menu. Right clicking on the page also gives you a choice of 'Square', or 'Isometric Grid' if required.

The primary toolbar consists of the following tools: straight line, curved line, rectangular shapes, ellipse shapes, text box, text effects, line colour, fill colour, select tool and a 'Quick Shapes' menu. This can be customised to include any, or all the tools to suit the age and ability of the operator. The standard toolbar is the default toolbar and contains all the available icons. This is much more suitable for older children, or those computer-literate pupils. The toolbars can be changed, or customised using the 'View' menu.

The toolbars and their icons are recognisable and respond quickly to input from the operator. Drawing tools are selected by clicking on them. The mouse is used to make shapes on the screen. Once an object is drawn, it can be coloured, or edited.

AspexDraw includes a booklet containing a brief summary of each icon. Once they have been demonstrated, the children were soon happily using them. The latest version of the software also includes a number of onscreen worksheets. These are easily located through the 'File' menu and are categorised into four folders: Design, ICT, Maths and Patterns. The ICT worksheets for example, provide the children with opportunities to practice the required skills: colouring, copying, moving, resizing, combining and rotating.

Children can use the program individually, or in pairs (this is a much noisier activity, as they love to discuss their ideas) once they have an introduction by an adult, or are given a structured task.
Ease of Use
A child can use the software with minimal help. The icons are meaningful and can be easily selected by a mouse click. An icon tip appears once the cursor is held over it on the toolbars.

Children are unable to inadvertently lose their work. After clicking quit ('X', or 'Exit' in the 'File' menu) a window asking if you want to "Save the untitled work" appears and you are required to affirm, or cancel before you can continue.

The children can either save their work in a central folder (which makes life easier for assessment), or their own folder (if you are connected to a network).

The icon information in the booklet is clear and helps the busy classroom teacher demonstrate the program easily.

Installation instructions and your registration number are written on a slip of paper, so make sure you make a note of them.

The new addition of onscreen worksheets are a welcome resource for use with pupils and the inclusion of a worksheet template means the more confident teacher can create their own relevant worksheet for use within the school Curriculum.

The information is appropriate to Primary classrooms.

Special Needs
The icons on the primary toolbar are large, simple and clear. The screens are uncluttered and therefore suitable for young children, or the visually impaired. However, there is no facility for the help option to be spoken.

The primary toolbar can be customised to include only the tools you the teacher want to be available, so that younger children can just have the line and shape tools before progressing onto the other functions.

The updated software now includes onscreen exercises, which develop design skills: colouring, copying, moving, combining, and rotating. These provide short exercises that enable the children to practice their skills, as well as providing ideas for using the program.

AspexDraw is a simple, useful vector drawing program, which enables children to create their own designs. The wealth of tools included in the software encourages creativity and exploration by the children and as they can be introduced progressively, develop skills. Once introduced, the children respond quickly, positively and enthusiastically to the software. This software is a must for the Primary classroom.

KS3 Content Evaluation by Drew Buddie

This package is a suite of several modules, which together comprise a versatile drawing package that has potential uses right across the curriculum.

The package allows the user to draw shapes using vector graphics, instead of ‘painting’. It is ideally suited to young users. In addition, a pre-prepared library of shapes already exists and this can be used to design layouts of rooms or buildings.

The package gives the user a wide array of options to choose from and a slightly customisable, mostly simple, interface ensures the user is able to get on with the task instead of being confused with a large choice of tools.

Supporting Documentation
The booklet which comes with the CD-ROM takes the form of a glossary (not alphabetical) and this takes you through the use of all of the tools found in the package. Although only 16 pages in length, it was sufficient. An online Help facility ensures that specific questions can be answered as they arise.

Technical Support
There is a Help facility which I found useful.

Purpose of the Program
The program allows the user to build their own images by creating vector-drawn shapes, rather than pixel-editing. The facility also exists to move pre-drawn shapes (such as furniture) within an environment (e.g. a bedroom).

Curriculum Relevance
The publisher does not make any claims as to Curriculum relevance of the site. However, there are resources here which could stimulate discussion and relevant project work on a range of themes.
The package does exactly what it sets out to do. The user can create drawings in a very straightforward way. With the exception of the ability to move the objects within an environment, the user can take the finished drawing and incorporate it into other work, such as a poster or graphical presentation. The drawings can be saved in various formats, including BMP and JPG, so it should be possible to put all finished pictures into a package that supports these formats.

Analysis of Contents

The program is appropriate for Key Stage 3 pupils in that it is a no-fuss package that pupils will quickly become acquainted with. The difficulty with a package like this is that usually pupils spend too long getting to grips with the software. In this case, however, the package is easy to use and pupils should be able to draw decent pictures with a minimum of introduction.
Users who are familiar with the Acorn series of computers will recognise this program as being slightly similar in style and functionality to the free Acorn package ‘Draw’. This is high praise, for that was an incredibly simple-to-use vector graphics package, and Aspex Draw is equally simple to use.

Some users may be disappointed by this package when they first see it, as it has no ‘bells and whistles’. However, don’t let that put you off, what lies under the surface is a package of great value in any ICT classroom.

The package has a slightly customisable interface, in that young or inexperienced users could have an additional toolbar which is more closely tailored to their needs.

It was a joy to use this package. I am an experienced user of vector graphics software, and I can see that a great deal of thought has gone into designing a package that users of all abilities will be able to use with ease. The simplicity of the interface allows users, regardless of ability, to concentrate on the creation of drawings instead of working out which of a plethora of tools to use. Pictures can be exported in widely recognised file types to create a drawing to incorporate in a word-processed document or website. The added bonus of being able to manipulate pre-drawn objects, such as furniture, ensures that this package will have applications in a wide range of settings, even without the user drawing a single shape.

KS3 Content Evaluation by Heallen Payne

AspexDraw is a versatile vector drawing program that can be used to support many areas of the National Curriculum at various Key Stages. Some possible teaching and learning objectives that it could be used to support in Year 7 are:
Art unit 7B - using AspexDraw to produce design plans for a small-scale sculpture without endless re-drawing, as well as considering the use of space inside and outside the building.
Maths - Representation of 2-D and 3-D shapes.
D&T Unit 7D - to produce an interesting backdrop for a shop window display by experimenting with 3D shapes and perspective.
Maths - Shape, Space and Measures - symmetry.

I think one of the strong features of this product is the fact that it is very quick and easy to use. By using F7 and Shift+F7 you can easily swap between a simple primary toolbar and a more advanced standard toolbar. The size of the whole image on the screen can be easily adjusted. Single items can be selected to be flipped, mirrored, rotated and moved with ease. The colour palette is extensive and simple to access. The special effects are fun and effective, with options such as colour grading and isometric conversion. The size of grids that you work on can be altered and viewed portrait, or landscape. It would also be an effective piece of software for the delivery of unit 5A at Key Stage 2.

The most recent version of the software comes complete with onscreen worksheets that support Design, ICT, Maths and Patterns. A blank template is available to enable you to create your own worksheets. The worksheets reinforce selecting, rotating, resizing, dragging and colouring objects using short, focused tasks. They are very simple to use at Key Stage 3, but provide useful consolidation for less able pupils and fun starting activities to revise basic skills.

Within the school context, I think it would be best suited to support design projects and Maths projects, allowing less successful pupils to move away from the endless drawing and re-drawing of a design before they are happy with it and enabling more able pupils to be more creative. It also allows for experimentation of colour and special effects. To use the program effectively, you need to play with it, but a simple overview of the program's effects is included in a very straightforward user guide. The clipart is easy to use and "comprises of 3-D drawings of items for designing rooms in a house". Bitmap images can also be loaded and used with the software. I could import images from AspexDraw into Word, but not Textease Studio. The guide accompanying the software states that you can also import vector images from My World files.

Installation onto a standard Windows 95 desktop was simple. The CD-ROM does not autorun, so I followed the instructions that accompanied the software: I clicked on Start, went to Run, typed in 'd:\setup.exe' and clicked on OK. The installation process was easy to follow.

Network installation was straightforward and I encountered no technical hitches. Not only is the software simple to install, it is also incredibly simple to uninstall and reinstall.

When I tried to install the PC at school for single user access rather than home, it was more difficult. I was trying to install AspexDraw onto the network for single user access. In other words, the network knew that it was allowed to run the program on one PC at a time using the disc and should not try to terminate it. We use a Winsuite desktop for pupils so they can't access control panels and fiddle with PC settings etc. The first stage of installation using picturetaker and the manager windows desktop was easy; the second stage was considerably more difficult due to the fact that the CD-ROM didn't autorun and I had difficulty adding the AspexDraw icon to the pupil desktop. When I did add the button, it just tried to autorun the disc, which the disc doesn't do. In the end I just fully installed it onto one computer with no problems whatsoever.

The program loads very quickly for classroom use and the process of creating images and plans is very fast. The problem I encountered from the first version of the software - a "Run Time error '11', Division by Zero" problem when using the curve tool, appears to have been corrected and has NOT presented any problems in the upgraded version of AspexDraw.


Curriculum Relevance
This program could be used to support several Curriculum areas such as Art, Design and Technology, ICT and Maths. Possible specific areas of use, from a Year 7 perspective using the QCA schemes are:
Art Unit 7B - AspexDraw could be used to create plans for a building so the impact of the building could be considered without endless redrawing, or it could be used to explore how the space inside and outside the building could be used.
ICT Unit 3 - The aim is for groups to work together to produce a newspaper. AspexDraw could be used to create some useful images for the newspaper.
D&T Unit 6/ 7 - For this unit AspexDraw could be used to create a basic plan of a D&T room, although the Spex software would be more appropriate in this context and it could then be labelled and annotated. Using the AspexDraw software you could plan a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, or lounge. Two of the onscreen sheets will also help you to plan a classroom and a garden.
D&T Unit 7D - This unit of work is based upon using control to control a display. AspexDraw could be used to produce an interesting backdrop for a shop window giving an impression of 3-D perspective.
Maths: Shape, Space and Measures - As AspexDraw allows you to flip, mirror, rotate and layer shapes, it could be a very useful tool in helping pupils to "Visualise, describe and sketch 2-D shapes in different orientations". By selecting the square grid and determining the spacings of the points on the grid, pupils could explore and use "the geometric properties of triangles and quadrilaterals". 3-D shapes could also be drawn and symmetry could be explored.

Design & Navigation
The design and navigation of the program have been carefully thought out. There is no annoying introductory sequence that needs bypassing; instead, the drawing and construction can begin straightaway. By placing the cursor arrow above the buttons on the toolbars, the function of the button is revealed, making it accessible to all users. As already mentioned, the primary toolbar can be simplified for less able, or younger users. Once the customised toolbar has been applied, it is remembered and will remain the new primary toolbar until you choose to customise it again.

The images for the buttons on the toolbars are appropriate and clearly indicate what the tool is to be used for (although, as mentioned I did find it confusing that the Edit tool performs the Warp tool functions). All tools can be accessed by a single mouse click. Pupils can create diagrams and add annotations with ease. It is possible for the user to view more than one page on the screen at a time; I found this useful when I wanted to work between two pages, but when more pages were added to the screen, the graphics were tiny and the percentage of the work visible needed to be increased to allow work to be completed. Viewing multiple pages onscreen would be very useful when producing banners, or complex scaled designs on one of the background grids.

There are plenty of keyboard shortcuts so you don't need to go into the main menus all the time. For example, F7 gives the Primary Toolbar, Shift+F7 gives the Standard Toolbar, Shift+F1 gives a square grid to work on, Shift+F2 gives an isometric grid.

Ease of Use
This title is sufficiently easy for a learner to use independently, or with a peer with minimal help. The toolbar buttons operate logically and the keyboard shortcuts are useful for more experienced users. In my opinion, an advantageous feature of the program is being able to easily adjust the height and width of pre-drawn quick shapes in a preview format before deciding on whether or not to use them in your work. The shapes are adjusted by using the slide bars that appear by the sides of the shapes. The pre-drawn shapes are split into eight sections: Maths, symbols, general, mechanical, 3-D shapes, arrows, speech bubbles and banners.

The program is fun to use - pupils will need a clear aim, otherwise they will use a lot of time just playing and experimenting with importing the clipart. The clipart available is made up of 3-D drawings of items for use in a home. The clipart works very well against the isometric grid. Most items in the clipart selection can be viewed in any of five ways: plan, front right, front left, back right and back left. The program is quick to grasp and you can be equally creative using both versions of the design toolbar (primary and standard), producing anything from a simple design to a sophisticated plan/ image.

Pupils will need some teacher input before using the program to explain that images can be placed in front of, or behind each other. It would also be useful for them to know that a group of images can be locked and unlocked, making the relocation of a selection of images a much simpler task. The brief user guide that accompanies the program gives sufficient information to give an overview of what the program is capable of and how specific effects can be achieved. Within the material provided with the program, there are no resources provided for use within the classroom, but the software does contain fifty onscreen activities, which can be completed and then printed. The quality of printed work was very acceptable. Saving work was simple, as was opening saved work to continue working on it.

Special Needs
I feel that the upgraded version of this software is more Special Educational Needs-friendly than the original version. At Key Stage 3, the onscreen activity sheets can be used to support the use of basic computer skills such as selecting, dragging, resizing and rotating. The sheets can help to support basic skills within Maths, ICT and Design, although I do feel they are more appropriate for Key Stage 2 than Key Stage 3. The software can easily be used by less able pupils and Special Educational Needs pupils, as you have the facility to customise the primary toolbar, making it simpler by limiting the options available to the user. You can produce very satisfying results without using reading, or writing. Text can be added to work, but this is an optional extra and does not form the core of the program. To produce more elaborate images you need to have good mouse control; this is where the square and isometric grids prove really helpful. The more able you are, the more detailed the work is that you are likely to produce.

The original version of this software offered nothing in the form of exercises onscreen for you to use; in the most recent version of this software this shortcoming has been addressed. Fifty onscreen activity sheets have been included and once completed they can be printed. The sheets consist of short focused tasks that are clearly explained. Key words in the explanations are written in a different colour to catch the attention of the reader. The language is kept very simple and the explanations are succinct. To successfully complete the onscreen activities, the user needs to learn, or be familiar with how to select, move, rotate, resize and colour shapes. There is no need for feedback in terms of right and wrong answers, but you do get immediate onscreen feedback, as the graphic images you choose to add to your work are added almost instantly: there seems to be no delay as clipart images, or onscreen worksheets are accessed and created.

AspexDraw is a very versatile vector drawing program that can be used to support many areas of the National Curriculum across various Key Stages. I was not very impressed with the original version of this program, as it seemed to lack a clear purpose; this has been more than adequately addressed in the upgraded version and I am looking forward to using it in the classroom. The program has a lot of potential and I can see how it can be used purposefully within the school Curriculum.

Although the majority of the onscreen activity sheets that have been included may be too simple for Key Stage 3 pupils, they have given me some ideas as to how I can incorporate the software within the Year 7 Curriculum. Installation on a network for single user access using a Winsuite student desktop wasn't easy, as the CD-ROM did not autorun, but I think the effort put into overcoming the problem was worth it; at this point I must reiterate the fact that the CD-ROM installed perfectly on a standard Windows desktop. Installation onto a network was also incredibly easy.

The program is simple to use and many of its limitations are those imposed by the imagination of the user. The fact that the primary toolbar can be customised means that the program is accessible to much younger pupils. The range of clipart for designing rooms in a house is good, with the majority of items shown from five different views. A greater range of buttons on the toolbars means you don't have to keep moving backwards and forwards to the main menus. The available grids allow pupils to produce work to scale and the facility to add text means that work can be annotated. The different views offered with the clipart means that producing work with different elevations is much simpler than trying to create the same work by hand.

KS2 Classroom Evaluation by Kevin Jones

I used AspexDraw to support the teaching of QCA ICT Unit 5a: 'Graphical Modelling'. The lessons were taught over a five-week period, each lesson lasting one hour. The class I took was a Year 5 class, made up of 30 children. None had any Special Educational Needs relevant to the teaching of this unit. The class were paired up and each pair was asked to work collaboratively to produce eventually, a design for a new classroom.

Teaching with this Product
Over the course of the lessons, my teaching and learning objectives were for the children to be able to use an object-based graphics package to create, combine and manipulate objects and explore possibilities. I was teaching key ideas, such as the idea that images can be created by combining and manipulating objects and that a graphical model can be used to explore alternatives. I focused on techniques, such as moving, rotating and resizing objects and using line and shape tools to create our own objects.

AspexDraw was used by small groups of children and I also used the software to demonstrate to the whole class. The most effective use of AspexDraw in my teaching was in modelling and evaluating alternatives. I had planned a lesson about designing a new classroom; the focus being to explore how many tables would fit in a classroom using different layouts. By using the clipart and the various tools, it became extremely easy to move tables around onscreen and evaluate our classroom designs as we went along. Because this is an object-based design package, objects could be recombined and moved around as many times as was necessary. The only comparable way to teach this without a product such as AspexDraw would be to have the children physically moving model tables and chairs around a classroom layout. Using ICT and CAD has the advantage of being more immediate, less resource-intensive, higher quality and more linked to the 'real-world' uses of ICT. There was very little subject-related preparatory work before we began this unit. The children came with previous knowledge of designing and evaluating products and of using paint packages, but ICT hadn't been used before to support design in this way.

Classroom Organisation
AspexDraw was used by pairs of children together in a networked room of 15 computers. When I was introducing the topic, or demonstrating the skills to be learnt, I used a VNC viewer so that all children could see where I pointed the mouse and which icons/menus I was using. Some children also wanted to follow up their work in lessons during lunchtimes, so I made the computer room available for that.

Use of ICT to Achieve Objectives
AspexDraw was used to teach part of the QCA Scheme of Work in ICT (Unit 5a: Graphical Modelling). The unit is concerned primarily with two strands. The first is the techniques that a child needs to accurately create objects, pictures and graphical models, such as dragging and dropping geometric shapes, drawing lines, resizing, rotating and grouping objects together. The second strand looks at how an object-based design package can model situations (such as how many tables you can fit into a classroom, or how can you improve an aspect of the school environment) and how it can be used to explore alternatives (what if the tables in school were twice as long? How many could you fit in to a classroom then?) Because this is an ICT unit, it is not possible to deliver it without access to a drawing package. However, AspexDraw seems particularly well suited to the job in hand. Firstly, it is an object-based package, meaning that when you combine two, or more graphical elements to create a picture, or design, they can still be highlighted as individual objects and moved around, or resized. This can't be done with a package such as Paint. Secondly, the bank of clipart images provides children with professional looking objects to insert into their designs. Whilst there were some children confident enough to create their own objects for tables and chairs, having a set of ready-made ones helped those children who weren't quite so competent with a mouse. Their difficulty with drawing onscreen didn't get in the way of the lesson objective.

The children's work was structured by providing a clear objective for each session, whether it was practising skills, or using those skills to create a graphical model. The onscreen ICT worksheets provided structure for the skills-based elements because they have a definite finished outcome (e.g. when moving all the parts of the picture to make an owl, you know when you have completed the task because you have a picture of an owl on screen). This avoided the possibility of 'exploring' the tools in an aimless and unstructured way. The outcome of this unit was to become confident with using the tools and menus of AspexDraw and to use AspexDraw to model a real-life situation, in this case a design of a classroom according to certain criteria (number of tables and chairs, room for displays, desirable features such as natural light etc). As this was done over a number of sessions, there was ample opportunity for the children to save, recall and re-evaluate their own and others' work.

Using this Product
The subject and ICT aspects of teaching with AspexDraw were largely one and the same. In using this package, I did have the opportunity to introduce some extra ICT terminology, such as 'vectors', 'objects' and 'layers' and we did revisit a lot of our old skills - saving and retrieving work, printing out our designs, dragging and dropping objects etc.

Monitoring & Assessment
I monitored pupils' progress by always making explicit our learning objectives and what features of AspexDraw we would use to help us achieve them. At the end of our lesson we would revisit the lesson objective and check our progress. I found it extremely helpful to use printouts of the 'ICT worksheets' to monitor progress when the learning objective was a skills-based one. For the integrated task of designing a classroom, I kept printouts of each stage of design to identify if children had made significant changes from one session to another and I also monitored their understanding of the value of using ICT in design by asking key questions such as "what advantages does this way of working have over doing this in the classroom?" and "what if..." questions. The most common answers to the first question were to do with speed, ease and accuracy. I also asked them if they could think of any other lessons that they had done where they might have wanted to use this sort of package to help them. They saw that this sort of design could be used in all sorts of Curriculum areas, from making maps of the local area, to deciding where a Celt might build his fort, to recording Science experiments.

I was satisfied with the level of attainment when I saw children confidently and accurately using AspexDraw to provide answers to their own questions. For example, one child wondered whether she would have enough room in her classroom if a new child came to our class. She decided that she didn't, so she re-organised her classroom to accommodate this possibility.

Special Needs
I find that the nature of drawing and design packages makes them very difficult to adapt to children with Special Educational Needs that affect their hand-eye co-ordination. I didn't have anyone with Special Educational Needs in my group for this unit, but if I had, I would have made use of the large icons, simplified the task and provided plenty of support in the basic skills needed by using the 'ICT worksheets'.

KS 3 Classroom Evaluation by Heallen Payne

The software was very useful in supporting a unit of mathematical work linked to surface area. Two pupils tried to use the software to create a symmetrical pattern, with a rotational order of four, or more and produced some amazing results. In the summer term I envisage using the software to enable pupils to produce graphics for a backdrop for a shop window display (D&T unit 7D) and to produce simple plans for a building (Art unit 7B).

This software is very versatile and can be used to produce some really good quality work. Installing the software was relatively straightforward. You do need to have a clear purpose in mind, as a lot of time can easily be wasted just playing about with the program. Pupils of all abilities can achieve success; those with good mouse control will be able to produce some very detailed work using the square and isometric grids. A useful bank of clipart has been included to help produce plans of rooms in a house. The clipart can be rotated and resized with ease. The fifty worksheets accompanying the software are in my opinion, more suitable for Key Stage 2 pupils, but will be of use to less able Key Stage 3 pupils.

Pupils found the software easy to use. Toolbars were quickly understood, as many of the buttons are similar in appearance and function to those used by Word, Dazzle and Textease. The only part pupils found difficult to grasp was using the Warp tool to warp text. In general, very little teacher intervention was needed once tasks and aims had been outlined to pupils.

Overall this is a useful piece of software that will help to deliver several areas of the National Curriculum.

Teaching with this Product

I used this software for set Maths lessons. The pupils were generally working at Level 5 to Level 6. The group has no less able pupils; all pupils were able to use the standard toolbar with ease.

I quickly abandoned the first task that I set the pupils, which was creating as many shapes as possible with two overlapping squares. They found the task difficult to complete on the computer and got very frustrated. This activity worked best as a paper-based activity.

I then changed my approach and decided to use the software to help pupils visualise 3-D shapes. Pupils worked in pairs to "use 2-D representations to visualise 3-D shapes and deduce some of their properties" and to "calculate the surface area of cubes and cuboids" (NNS Y7 - Shape, Space and Measures). The whole class completed the same tasks; half of the class used isometric paper to do their work and the other half used AspexDraw to complete their work. The work was purposeful and pupils achieved quick results. Work produced on the PCs using the isometric grids was far better than work produced by hand due to the fact that pupils did not have to keep rubbing out mistakes. Pupils annotated their work on the screen and the quality of their presentation was enhanced. This activity was very successful. Pupils enjoyed using the computer and generally produced a greater quantity of work, or the same amount of work than those drawing the shapes by hand.

I was a bit concerned to start with, as to how much help and time pupils would need to use the software during the Maths lesson, but my fears were unfounded: pupils used the software with ease. As our school computers all have 15-inch monitors, I did not demonstrate the software to the whole class. Instead, I gave one pupil a quick tour of the software and left him to 'play' for 15 minutes. After experimenting, he then shared his new knowledge with a classmate. I then had two 'tutors' in the class who could help pupils during the Maths lessons, if anyone got in a muddle!

Classroom Organisation
When I used this software in my lessons it was with small groups (pairs), trying to complete short, focused tasks.

I prepared worksheets for pupils; these contained an outline of the lesson objectives, the task to be completed and a brief set of instructions to help get them started on the task. With the help from pupils who had previously used the software, they then set about their task. I used the software over six lessons. In the first lesson, the software was new to everybody; in the second lesson one member of the original pair stayed with the PC and they were joined by a new partner. In lesson three, the 'new partner' from lesson two stayed with the PC and they were joined by a member of the class who had not used the software etc. This way very little teacher intervention was needed to help pupils use the software and I could focus on helping with the mathematical content of the lesson.

During the lesson I used the PC in my classroom. I am very fortunate that my classroom looks out onto our school PC area. This means that the screens on one side of the PC area and the screen in my classroom can be easily monitored. I used five PCs in total during the lesson, each with two children working together to try and complete the task in hand.

The software does not use sound so you don't need to worry about the need for headphones. Pupils using AspexDraw were not a distraction to the rest of the class.

Use of ICT to Achieve Objectives
I emphasised to pupils that annotating their work was of equal importance to the shapes they produced, as they need to demonstrate that they fully understand the task they are completing. They used the software to meet the following NNS Y7 objectives related to shape, space and measures:

To use 2-D representations to visualise 3-D shapes and deduce some of their properties
To investigate in a range of contexts: shape, space and measures
To calculate the surface area of cubes and cuboids

AspexDraw made a significant contribution to this area of the Curriculum and it would be very easy to go on to provide extension material for pupils. For example, in lesson one I asked pupils to draw every orientation of a 1 × 2 × 3 brick that is possible by joining the dots on an isometric grid. To extend this activity, faces of the brick could be given specific colours to further indicate the direction of rotation. The dots on the isometric grid also meant that pupils could count the squares to check that the surface area of their shape was correct.

Pupils found it easy to create new shapes with a given number of cubes, but considerably more difficult to create shapes with a given surface area.

Using this Product
Before pupils used the software, I gave one pupil a quick tour of the main functions and left him to experiment. After 15 minutes he was able to use all the buttons on the toolbar and was able to access the clipart files. He had experimented with effects such as flip, rotate and mirror. Resizing clipart pictures was easy and he had experimented with the gradual shading of shapes. Very little explicit discussion was needed, but I did take a few moments to explain how to add and swap the square and isometric grids, as well as explaining how to view more than one page at a time. Generally pupils had enough knowledge from using other software (such as Word, Dazzle and Textease) to allow them to understand the main functions of the buttons on the toolbars. I used the cascade method to pass on basic knowledge related to how to use the program. Pupils were able to print their work with ease using the printer button on the toolbar; saving work was also very easy.

Monitoring & Assessment
I clearly stated my teaching objectives at the start of the lesson. All pupils, whether working on the PC, or working by hand worked from the same objectives. I ensured pupils clearly understood the main activity that they were to complete after the whole class mental starter. Very little teacher intervention was needed and pupils were able to demonstrate their level of understanding by annotating their work where appropriate and printing completed work.

The program does not have, or need a notebook facility, or tracking facility. Therefore, if you want to look at the development of a pupil's work at different stages, then you will need to do this by regular printouts, or regular saving using different file names.

Pupils were questioned about their work to ensure they understood what they were doing as they completed their tasks; they were also expected to contribute to the end of lesson plenary. At the end of lesson one, pupils were able to put together two bricks, with corners fitting to make non-cuboidal shapes. At the end of lesson two, we were able to look at our drawings and discuss what the smallest and largest possible surface areas were for shapes made with six cubes. All pupils, computer-based and classroom-based, were able to join in with plenary sessions and make a valuable contribution.

Special Needs
This software caters for Special Educational Needs pupils, as the toolbar can be made much simpler by pressing F7. The pupils I used the software with did not need to use this facility, as they were able to understand and use the standard toolbar with ease.

KS2 Classroom Evaluation by Lesley Studley

AspexDraw is a simple, easy to use vector drawing program, which enables children to create drawings using lines, curves, rectangles, ellipses and text and provides a number of tools for young designers to develop their editing skills, thus supporting the graphical modelling strand of the National Curriculum for ICT. Included in the title are a number of onscreen worksheets, which support children to practice colouring, moving, rotating and editing shapes and a user guide containing detailed instructions about the various tools and effects.

The title was used by the teacher to provide a vector drawing graphics package for the children to first explore and then compare similarities and differences with a known paint package such as Paintbrush. Once the pupils had mastered the different tools and effects, they were asked to create an image in the style of one of two studied artists: Joan Miro (Year 5), or Paul Klee (Year 6) to coincide with an Art topic. It was used with two classes of Year 5/6 children and by individual, or paired children working individually for 10-15 minute sessions on a classroom-based PC, or a bank of four PCs in an area adjacent to the classroom.

AspexDraw has been designed to meet the Graphics Modelling area of the Curriculum. It provides a fun, simple, easy to use design solution that encourages children to explore and create images and enables them to succeed with minimal support.

Teaching with this Product
AspexDraw supports the ICT Curriculum at Key Stage 2 and was used to provide the knowledge, skills and understanding needed to use a vector drawing graphics package to design and produce images.

The first sessions enabled the children to become familiar with the software toolbars; onscreen worksheets were used with some of the less able pupils. Using the worksheet template, it is possible to create further worksheets to provide a lesson focus and activity for the children to investigate before attempting their own designs.

The toolbars, icons and onscreen worksheets were demonstrated and discussed with the whole class before individual children, or pairs used them. Individual children's ideas could be saved and then discussed in a plenary session with the whole class.

AspexDraw enables the pupils to build on earlier work using a paint package and to understand the differences between that and a vector drawing package.

The children had been investigating the work of specific artists and had used pastels to create a design in the style of either Miro, or Klee. Using this preparatory work, the children were then asked to create a second image using the software.

Once the children had done this, they were then asked to compare and discuss their designs.

We are now starting a new design topic on 'Shelters' and the children have begun to use AspexDraw to produce their design plans.

Classroom Organisation
I used a single computer linked to a projector for introducing the software to the whole class: the onscreen worksheets, the toolbars, the icons and the effects. I then organised use of the classroom-based machine and four networked PCs in an adjacent area, for individuals, or pairs of children to work on.

The initial tasks to practice using the software were quite short and took approximately 10 minutes per pair. A similar length of time was allocated once the children started their designs and their work was saved. Use of the computer was organised by rota while the rest of the class worked on other activities: investigating the work of the artists Miro and Klee; planning designs on paper; investigating techniques for using pastels; drawing 3D views using square and isometric grid paper.

Use of ICT to Achieve Objectives
The title was used to develop the children's understanding of graphic modelling and a vector design package.

The title involves activities that could be achieved in other ways. However, it has the advantage of showing how the computer can support the development of design skills: using an isometric grid to create 3-D designs; using a square grid to align objects; how a change of colour or size can affect the final design; how a computer can allow the designer to explore a number of design ideas by rotating, layering and resizing objects at the click of a mouse, to name but a few.

The tasks can be easily set up so they offer opportunities for teacher intervention in order to stimulate and direct pupils' learning, as well as during plenary sessions. Questions used include: "What did you learn from completing this worksheet?" "What difficulties if any, did you experience using the tool?" " How could you recreate this clipart picture using AspexDraw?" "Which effect would you use to create this and why?" "What differences/similarities did you discover between this and other graphics packages you have used?"

The onscreen worksheets offer examples of a valuable way in which to structure pupils' work to focus on relevant aspects of the topic and to maximise use of time. The worksheet template means you can create your own activities relevant to a particular topic.

The children's work, once saved can be viewed, discussed and evaluated with the whole class.

Using this Product
AspexDraw is a simple, fun, practical resource with which to nurture and enhance the children's design talents. Once the toolbars and icons have been demonstrated and the effects such as copying, colouring, editing, flipping, grading, layering, rotating, deleting, resizing and moving items discussed, the children need very little support to use the title. This is particularly true if the pairs include an able with a less able child. AspexDraw uses the mouse to control the various drawing tools and effects. The main skills required are clicking, dragging and a familiarity with toolbars and boxes to edit colour and text.

The resource provides a valuable opportunity to demonstrate the versatility of the computer as a graphics-modelling tool within the classroom environment.

Monitoring & Assessment
Pupils' progress was monitored by using clear teaching objectives and differentiated learning outcomes, structured use of the title, use of questioning and whole class discussion of saved work, using the projector for easy display. Skills using the effects could be assessed through use of the onscreen worksheets.

As the PCs were networked, the children saved their work in a central public design folder, thus enabling the teacher to locate their work easily and regularly review/assess their ideas.

Special Needs
The primary toolbar provides a much simpler screen and the icons are large and clear. The toolbar can be changed and customised to include only the tools needed. Holding the cursor over the icons reveals a hint to its use.

The fun factor of using the computer for design and drawing motivates children with learning and behavioural difficulties - to the extent that many children asked for extra time at lunchtimes to experiment with the package.