FOCUS Reading & Language

MultiMedia Schools, May/June 2003 | Go to article overview

FOCUS Reading & Language


Company: Plato Learning Inc., 10801 Nesbitt Avenue South, Bloomington, MN 55437; Phone: 800/447-5286; E-mail: marketing@plato.com; Web site: http://www.plato.com/.

Price: $450-$1,499 per machine-individual software licenses based on volume, providing unlimited student use. $18,000-site licenses, unlimited machines per building.

$599-print curriculum teacher kit. A single teacher kit is available to be adapted by the teacher for use at different grade levels.

Some professional development is included with the initial purchase. Additional professional development is available for a fee, based on implementation size.

Audience: Grades K-2; older in intervention and special education settings.

Format: FOCUS is an integrated reading and language arts program with both print and technology components. The technology component is a multimedia CD-ROM with speech recognition and verbally interactive computer animation; the software contains student training activities and a teacher management system.

Minimum System Requirements: Macintosh systems: PowerPC 275 MHz or G3 233 MHz, OS 9.0, 100 MB hard drive space, 64 MB RAM, a 6x CD-ROM drive, and a sound card.

Windows systems: Pentium 350 MHz, 100 MB hard drive space, 64 MB RAM, Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP, a 6x CD-ROM drive, and a sound card.

The program works better with faster newer computers and lots of memory.

The speech recognition features require the use of headphones and a microphone. I used a very nice set from Labtec (LVA-8712) with a microphone connected to the headphones (about $50 retail).

Programs such as DirectX 8, QuickTime 5, and Acrobat Reader also are needed, but are included and can be installed from the CD.

Description: FOCUS is a combined print and technology program, flexible enough to be implemented at three levels (beginning, developing, or advanced readers) as a core reading program, a supplement to a core program, for remediation, or for special education classrooms.

Reviewer Comments:

Installation: I installed this program on two Windows machines. One was newer, with ample memory and speed, and one was older, with just enough of everything. Installation was similar on both, and presented some problems.

When the installation didn't auto start, it was a little difficult to find the instructions to proceed. I opened the CD and double-clicked "Setup" (setup.exe on some Windows machines) to start the process with a screen that allowed installation in several steps.

The basic installation was a two-step process, one step for the teachers' program and one for the student program. Users will need to know if QuickTime 5 and DirectX 8.0 are already installed on their systems and, if not, these programs must be installed as separate steps in the process. Installation will not be a problem for experienced computer users, but definitely will be for those not familiar with these issues.

The PDF file containing the teachers' manual can be accessed with Adobe Acrobat from the installation program. If you don't already have this free application software, you can add it from the installation screen-if your computer has enough free memory. The older computer I used didn't have enough memory to fully open the 64 page teachers manual. I could read the first few pages, but not all of the material.

Another installation issue emerged as I began working directly with the software. Since speech recognition is used, a good microphone and speaker setup are essential. An older setup with two standard plugs will work, but a USB microphone headset is best, especially in a lab or noisy classroom where other noise will interfere with the quality of the speech recognition. The headphone set required installation of a driver and some modification of the control panel settings. Installation Rating: C

Content/Features: The FOCUS Reading and Language program is built on a philosophy of teaching children to read by emphasizing all language arts processes, especially listening. …

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