I've just received a link to download the latest program from 2Simple. Called 2DIY (for non-Brits, DIY = do-it-yourself, a shorthand term for home making things like bookshelves for the home), it enables users to create their own games and exercises.
I've had a quick exploration, and it is looking very good. Read on for a quick thumbnail sketch, and why I think you should look into it.
Back in the 1990s I used to love looking at shareware games developed for the educational sector. Some of the games were quite fun, but the problem for me was either that the game wasn't really educational at all, or that it didn't quite do what I'd have liked. Unfortunately, I never had the time to develop my games programming skills in order to rectify the situation.
I think 2DIY would have been a step in the right direction.
I think the best way of describing the program -- bearing in mind I've had it installed for less than an hour -- is that it's the programming equivalent of a painting or desktop publishing program. What you have is a suite of specialised tools, and you can use them to build yourt own games and activities.
You can see from the screenshot that the range is quite extensive. The manual is easy to use, and there are videos and examples available.
It has the ability to let you import pictures or select from a range of ones provided. Indeed, there is quite a lot of control over what your completed game or activity will look like.
What's more interesting to me, however, is what boxes it ticks if you put it into the hands of youngsters -- and I use the term "youngsters" rather than "children" for reasons which will become apparent.
I like the idea that children could use this to devise activities which, rather than testing or extending their skills by doing the activity itself, does so by requiring them to design the activity themselves.
For example, when creating a quiz they may have to think about issues like the path taken by the user, how to frame the question, show the scoring will work, and what sounds (if any) to use for the feedback.
Looking at the requirements for sequencing in the National Curriculum at Key Stage 3 (look here for a clarification of what's required), it starts to become apparent that, were it not for the standard 2Simple childlike appearance of the program, you could almost get away with using it in Year 7 to introduce some of the concepts. Certainly, it will be useful in stretching the capabilities of the primary school child.
So, my initial impression is that it will be worthwhile looking into this. The company website is http://www.2simple.com, and they are at the BETT show at stand F59. My only beef with the program is that if you try to switch the webcam on when there isn't a webcam connected, you get a horrible error message and the program just ends. Hopefully, this is just a temporary glitch which will not be in the final version!