Reviewer: Debbie Schofield, Glebe Junior School
FlexiTREE is a very easy to use branching database. I used it with a whole mixed ability Year 4 class who had unsuccessfully attempted to create their own branching databases using different software last term. I introduced FlexiTREE and showed them how to open the software then purposely gave very little input. All the children managed to work their way through and created branching databases. Some children then managed to create additional imaginative databases straight from their heads to the screen. The feedback at the end of the session confirmed that they had all felt the instructions were clear and they had been successful in their task. I would recommend this software to any teacher needing a branching database.
Reviewer: Carol Wilson, Lawford Mead Junior School
FlexiTREE was a very easy program to learn how to use, the handbook is very user friendly and it is very easy to learn how to produce a branching database. FlexiTREE fulfils all the requirements of unit 4c in the QCA scheme of work for ICT. The program is very user friendly and the handbook takes the user through each step in very simple terms. Although the program is not differentiated for different ability ranges the software is designed in such a way that all pupils can access it at their level. The less able child will produce a simpler branching database whereas the more able student will be able to form a more complex tree and introduce a wider range of additional features such as comments for each example and pictures. These students will therefore be using a range of computer skills, including locating from file and importing pictures into the program. The software allows the student to try out their database and if any element is incorrect or they feel unsatisfactory they can alter aspects of their database as well as add extra objects into their branching tree at any time. The software allows close links to be made with both numeracy and science where the production of databases or use of databases is required.
Reviewer: Rhona Dick
MAPE has spent some time trying to develop a user-friendly branching database. We could have saved ourselves a lot of time and effort. Flexible Software Ltd has achieved just what we aimed to do, and more! The screens are all uncluttered and the program comes with a range of fonts to suit all needs; it is not, however, possible to change the colour of the text. [Note from Flexible Software: we have now added this feature to version 3]. There is only one ready-made file - fruit - although the easy-to-understand manual provides lots of ideas. The National Curriculum for Key Stage 2 Science suggests that "Pupils could use a branching database to develop and use keys" (page 86) and the National Numeracy Strategy Framework for teaching Mathematics identifies branching databases as one means of developing children's mathematical language, logical thinking and problem solving skills (Section 2 page 31). Creating branching databases develops so many skills that teachers shouldn't feel they are limited to these two curriculum areas. The program scores particularly highly on its ease of editing. Mistakes can be rectified simply by using the back button to return to earlier screens. Changes can be made at the end so that a tree can "grow" and more sophisticated ideas can be developed, for example pictures or comments can be added. Helpful messages guide your through the process if you do make a mistake. Another nice touch is the way the screens slide as you progress giving the impression that you are climbing the tree. The program will also tell you how efficient your tree is; in other words how many questions have you asked to enable you to identify an object compared to the optimum. This is a good feature, enabling users to modify and improve their classification skills. And of course you can print out your tree at the end. I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending this program. It represents excellent value for money, and should be in every school.
Reviewer: Roger Frost
Moving up to the junior school, pupils will meet classification - a staple school topic where they categorise fruits, plants or animals. For years now there's been mention of software that helps do this. In the days of the BBC computer, the software was called Sorting Game, but in these days of Windows,it has become as common as the dodo. You would take your animals, arrange them into sets and get the computer to identify them by asking it questions. For the animals it didn't know, the computer asked you to type in a question to tell between, say, a dog and a dinosaur. Having puzzled that out, you went on testing the machine with other animals. Sometimes called a branching tree database, the software had no purpose other than to help juniors learn a bit of science well. Filling this gap comes FlexiTREE (age 7+), which is able to take advantage of a tiny market niche. The program also adds value to the original by letting you add pictures to a "tree", guiding you through an easy program, and offering a useful print-out when you're done. Helping to make itself useful at all levels of school is the ability to change the screen font size - big for infants or small for the cooler older ones. Indeed, a bit of customising makes this look serious enough for secondary schools to classify anything from chemical elements to lugworms. FlexiTREE deserves praise not just for bringing back one of those BBC classics, but for making a neat job of it.