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(Article reprinted here with permission from Teaching K-8 Magazine)

BLUE RIBBON SOFTWARE

Ready for back-to-school? Starting a new school year is simplified with these terrific software programs that are perfect for teachers getting materials ready, or for student applications for integrating technology in the curriculum.

Tool Factory Workshop Tool Factory Workshop from Tool Factory, Inc. is a comprehensive office suite designed with the K-12 student in mind. Each of the four application tools in the Workshop can be configured for elementary, middle and high school, or adult learners. The Workshop suite includes a talking word publisher, an intuitive paint program, an easy to use spreadsheet, and a full-feature database with graphing features. All four office suite programs use the same basic interface which makes it easy for students to switch from one program to the next.

Tool Factory Word Processor. This is a talking word processor that is as easy as using pencil and paper. Writing is as easy as clicking and beginning to type - anywhere you want to on the page! Wherever you click the mouse, that is where text begins. A speech engine (only with the Mac version) makes it possible to read a letter, word, or sentence.

Editing text and objects is a simple process. Just double click to make any text an object. A green dot will appear in the object which allows you to rotate the text in any direction. A right click on the corner lets you resize the text. Editing options are the same when you double click an image. You can even grab the corner to resize a video window!

A Bank on the left of all the application tools provides students with a word bank, a graphics bank, a video bank, and an audio bank to add to their work. Tool Factory Workshop provides a comprehensive library of multimedia for use in the classroom.

Tool Factory Painter. What a powerful art program! Choose from basic colors to a palette of thousands, add special effects such as wash, tint, swirl, and ripple, clone your drawing, or use the stamping feature to grab clip art or photos and stamp them on the page. Right click on a tool to change the property for pen size or shape. My students loved using the tool to draw in quadrants for working with symmetry and creating beautiful tessellations and quilt patterns for a social studies unit on Colonial America.

Tool Factory Spreadsheet. You’ll find all the usual spreadsheet functions, plus the ability to add pictures, sound, and video from the Bank. Formulas for all the standard calculations are included and can be easily graphed. Just research a topic and enter your own data to interpret.

Tool Factory Database. Manipulating data has never been more fun! Use the Bank to add multimedia, collect and sort data, and create graphs to support science experiments.

Administration Tools. Tool Factory Administrator ties all four programs together and gives the teacher control of options for the whole class or individual students. The interface can be customized for all applications to fit the lesson and the ability of students. Provide large icons and limit the number of available icons for Kindergarten, or configure the interface for a lesson on adding graphics and delete unused icons from the setup. All configurations can be saved for later use.

A special Tool Factory Bank Manager lets teachers add to the Bank. Use the manager to edit existing multimedia or create new banks of words, images, video, and sounds to fit the demands of projects in your specific curriculum. All of the banks can be searched.

Support materials are available online, and you can download free clip art, lesson plans, and printable worksheets. For more information, contact www.toolfactory.com or call 800-220-8386. Mac/Win95/98; $199.95.