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  1. Published by Indigo Learning

  2. Foundation Stage and KS1 (Up to year 2)

  3. Literacy, ICT

KS1 Content Evaluation by Andrew Jeffrey

The program consists of six activities which give students plenty of practice using and thinking about verbs. In ‘Podd In Action’, children are presented with two words onscreen which are spoken when the mouse is moved over them. Children click one of the words, and then see Podd perform the action. ‘What Is Podd Doing?’ is the reverse. Children watch Podd perform an action, and then say what he is doing. Clicking on a question mark both shows and speaks the appropriate verb. ‘Choose The Action’ is similar, as is ‘Spell The Action’.

In ‘What Can Podd Do?’ children type any verb and see if Podd can do it. If he can, he does – otherwise children must retype until they find a word which Podd understands.

The final activity, ‘Podd Can Play’, asks children to type in three verbs which Podd then carries out in order. If Podd does not understand any of the verbs, children are asked for a different word until all three words are understood, after which the animation begins.

Supporting Documentation
The User Guide consists of 16 A6 pages with clear instructions and some good ideas for using Podd in the classroom. Some useful sample screenshots are also included. Installation instructions are clear. There is one major disappointment, however. A glaring omission from the user guide is a complete list of verbs which Podd understands! This would have been very straightforward to include, and would have made a huge difference to busy teachers. A similar point must be made about which words are available in which age group’s word banks.

The teaching and learning ideas shown in the manual are linked to both the National Curriculum and the Foundation Stage (‘Communication Language and Literacy’ and ‘Personal Social and Emotional Development’ are the two areas of learning specifically supported for Nursery and Reception children.)

Technical Support
The program does not contain a tutorial. However, the User Guide covers all aspects of the program in ample detail, from installation to printing children’s work. Contact details for technical support are provided in the form of a contact telephone number and a dedicated email address. There is a Podd page on the Indigo Learning website (, but this is aimed at potential rather than current users.

Curriculum Relevance
Purpose of the Program
Podd aims to address two of the Foundation Stage Curriculum areas of learning. Primarily, it covers ‘Communication, Language and Literacy’. The second area of learning, ‘Personal, Social and Emotional Development’ is covered more incidentally than directly, such as ‘Taking turns’, ‘Describing and exploring a range of emotions’, ‘Having confidence to choose an independent activity’ and so on.

Curriculum Relevance
The box claims that Podd is excellent for language development. With careful guidance from teachers, children will certainly want to explore things Podd can do. A 20-minute field test with my 2½-year-old son held his attention well and there were signs that even in this short time he was starting to make choices and request Podd to do certain things.

The six activities cover a range of ways to engage children with language, specifically action-centred vocabulary. There are over 150 different verbs for children to discover. Sometimes they need to be able to spell the words, but at other times it is sufficient to move the mouse over a word and hear it spoken (in a clear male English voice).

Analysis of Contents
The publishers of Podd have worked hard and successfully to ensure that the software is appropriate for the age group it targets. The concepts covered are appropriate for, and stimulating for children in Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1. The six tasks are clearly defined and can be set by the teacher. The manual explains that the word bank varies, depending on the age group selected, though this was impossible to verify due to a lack of word lists in the manual itself. All activities are pitched at an appropriate level, and the vocabulary is simple rather than obscure.

Podd is carefully designed to appeal to all children, regardless of gender or ethnicity. Although definitely male, he is red and round, and drawn in a cartoon style. The standard of video on machines tested (Pentium III, and a Pentium IV) was high, as was the quality of the sound. Screens are always clear and uncluttered, and a friendly font is employed consistently throughout the program. The program is written and produced in the UK, so there are no American spellings to confuse children.

The publisher does not make any specific claims that Podd is differentiated for pupils with Special Educational Needs, but by its very nature it is easy to set challenges to match the ability and vocabulary levels of different groups of children. ‘Spell The Action’ and ‘Podd Can Play’ can easily be used to stretch more able children. Although font size and colour are fixed, they are both very clear and appropriate to the target age group.

This program is a rewrite of the classic BBC program from the 1980s. Podd is a screen character who responds visually to a range of 150 verbs and can perform 100 different animations. Altogether there are six activities. Children can click on a verb and see Podd perform that action, or they can watch Podd and then try to click on the correct verb from a choice of two, and so on. They can type in verbs to see whether Podd can perform them. Words are spoken as they are rolled over by the mouse so the program is accessible to pre-readers. Podd is an enjoyable way for both Foundation and Key Stage 1 children to learn about verbs.

KS1 Classroom Evaluation by Angela Jones

Installation & Access
The program installed quickly and with no trouble. There was a choice to install all the files to the hard drive or to run the program from the CD-ROM. It is essential that there is access to sound either through speakers or headphones as the instructions are given verbally. The program can be viewed at 800 x 600 and uninstalls easily without altering the individual machine's configurations. The program responded quickly to the user's instructions.

Planning Classroom Use
What This Product Offers
This is a very interactive CD-ROM where the individual is able to give instructions to the program and can immediately receive feedback. For example, the user is invited to ask Podd whether he can do something, and after the pupil types in the action, the answer is spoken – either 'No, he cannot' or 'Yes, he can'. If the answer is yes, then the action is shown, which leads to audience participation! The children enjoyed the level of participation that the program required – giving the instructions to Podd and receving instant feedback .

It is possible to set up a variety of activities for the children to undertake. For example, the users can try and find some things that Podd can do that the children cannot, e.g. fly. An alphabet of the things that Podd can do can be set up. All these activities help to firmly integrate ICT into the Curriculum as some of the activity can be undertaken away from the computer.

The program can be configured according to the age group concerned. This is achieved through the Teacher Menu screens, and settings can be saved if the files have been copied to the hard drive.
Purpose of Using This Product
This program was used to give the children practice in vocabulary, especially reading words onscreen, completing sentences, and spelling. It was also used to give practice in using ICT and navigating through a program.

These objectives were met through the use of this program which addresses pupils in a friendly and interactive way that was highly appropriate to this age group and which they enjoyed immensely! The various activities provided practice in addressing the lesson's objectives.

Each activity is spoken as the cursor rolls over it. This allows children of this age group to develop a degree of independence in using ICT as it is not essential that they are able to read the instructions first. It was possible to assess the individual's understanding through questioning as they worked through the activities. This enabled them to discuss what they were attempting to achieve and how they intended to complete a specific activity. It also enabled the teachers and/or support staff to offer suggestions and assess the ability to build words using phonic ability, etc.

The text including the instructions is spoken by the computer and this is an essential part of the success of this program. The children are able to follow the instructions easily and can develop a high degree of independence in using the program through this.

The feedback given to the users when they are asking Podd whether he can do something is very clear and the uncluttered screen provides the children with just the right amount of support. It is not possible, as far as I can ascertain, to change the size or colour of the text. The program can be launched by the individual.

Classroom Experience
Classroom Organisation
Initially this program was used in the ICT suite with an interactive whiteboard. This enabled all the children to particpate in the activity and watch a life-size Podd work through the activities. Working in this way enabled all the children to share the progam and develop an awareness of what was expected from them when they were working on the program in their classroom. This approach appeared to work well as the children were familiar with the program on return to class and were quickly able to start using it. When we were working in the ICT suite the children were all able to listen to the sound but when it was used in a pair situation, it was necessary to use headphones to prevent the noise disturbing others.

On return to the class the children were able to use the program in pairs. This generated a lot of discussion between individuals as they helped each other. By careful planning of pairs it was possible to ensure that the children in each pair complemented each other and peer coaching helped the less able children complete the activities.

The children were able to undertake part of the activity using ICT and then complete it at their desk. This ensures that it is possible for several groups to use the computer in a session.

Initially the children were encouraged to explore what the program could do and to try and complete as many activities as possible. This ensured that when they were asked to complete a specific activity they were less inclined to explore and also had an overview of what the program offered in its entirety.

Context of Use
The program was used as part of our Literacy work on 'doing words', and building words using phonics. The program fitted easily into our work and I was able to plan for pairs to work on the computer during the group work time. The children were already aware of what the program contained following its introduction in the ICT suite on the whiteboard and were able to settle to work quickly. The activity for this part of the lesson was introduced as a challenge and the children worked with LSA support to help them spell words that they were unsure of. It also provided the opportunity for informal assessment and monitoring to be undertaken.When all the children had had the opportunity to participate, a 'what can Podd do' board was made close to the computer station. This was made to celebrate individual's achievements and quickly became a point of reference for others to use when they were searching for help in spelling words or in planning actions for Podd to perform. This confirmed Podd's place in the classroom and the program was a firm favourite to use when choosing what program to use during free choice time.

Ease of Use - Design & Navigation
The program is very user-friendly and it is possible for the users to quickly become independent using it. As the text is spoken this adds to the help provided and the children are able to listen to the instructions and act accordingly.

The screen is very clear and there is a minimum of text and distracting graphics. This helped the children to focus on what they were being asked to complete and added to their enjoyment in using the program. It is very clear how to move round the program as the icon for navigating through the program is a large arrow.

Although it is not possible to bookmark where the user has got to, the activities are short and self-contained and this does not detract from the enjoyment.It is possible to set the level of difficulty for the child, either Nursery, Reception or Key Stage 1. For the Nursery child, the choice of actions is limited to three, which ensures that they are able to focus appropriately. However, my Nursery children quickly became so familiar with the program that they 'graduated' to the Reception Level!
Monitoring & Assessment
The children were monitored as they worked through the activities and assessed on the work that they produced together with the way in which they interacted with the program. It was possible to gain a valuable insight into their ability to use their developing word-building skills when using the 'choose an action' activity and their speaking and listening skills and vocabulary were enhanced through the 'What is Podd doing?' activity.

The program motivated the children to complete the activities and using the 'challenge' approach, they were keen to discover as much as possible about what Podd could do whilst learning about verbs. Their developing vocabulary was noted in other areas of work as they became more confident in applying it.As it is possible to start an activity using the program and to then complete it as a desk-based activity there was work that could be assessed away from the computer. This enabled a hard copy to be kept as evidence.

Feedback from Pupils and Other Staff
'Podd is funny and helps us to learn about 'doing' words.' 'There are lots of things that Podd can do.' 'Let's try and see if Podd can do everything.'

Teachers' comments: 'very useful'; 'encourages independence'; 'a nice easy program for the children to enjoy'; 'fun and learning at the same time, the children won't realise that they are working!'.

Ease of Use
This is a very easy program to work with. It is easy to install, configure and operate. The clear, uncluttered interface combined with the loveable Podd mean that the children are drawn into the program and encouraged to play as well as learn. The text is spoken to enable to user to understand all the instructions and the program reacts quickly to all instructions. Podd's actions are clear and encourage vocabulary acquisition. The program encourages the children to discuss what they are seeing and doing and the language-rich program encourages the development of vocabulary.

Classroom Experience
I used this program with a Reception group who responded very positively. The activities held on the program ensure that the children are able to practise their developing skills, both in ICT and Literacy, in a fun yet challenging environment where positive feedback and entertaining animations help to motivate and develop the children's abilities. The program was used in an ICT suite with a whiteboard for the whole class and as part of the Literacy Hour when pairs of children were able to work with a large degree of independence. The activities are approriately aimed at the target age groups and when started on the computer, some activities can then be taken and finished at a desk.