Now in its fifth version, Crick Software's Clicker, a powerful multimedia tool, has had its myriad features improved. When launched, Clicker 5's GUI appears in a split screen: one-half is a talking word processor, the other a multimedia writing space called a grid. Students can start composing by clicking images and animations from a grid and dragging them to the word processor.
Company: Crick Software; www.cricksoft.com
System Requirements: Mac: OS X 10.2.8; PC: Windows 98; Pentium II 400 MHz processor; 128 MB RAM
Price/Grade: $99-$999 (site license); K-6, students requiring adaptive tech
Pros: A versatile, graphic writing tool that can be used across the curriculum
Cons: Not all grids in Clicker Explorer run on Macs; may require training to fully optimize program features
More advanced students can insert text or their own images into a blank Word document or work from one of several grid templates to create video-enhanced books or record their voices to accompany a report. If writer's block impedes the creative process, students can string together words and sentences using the pop-up keyboard or word banks.
Although new editing features make creating and saving grids easier than earlier versions of the program did, accessing the full library of teacher-created grids via the program's online Explorer mode is still limited if using a Mac. Also, navigating these ancillary tools is not intuitive. Because this is a multi-use program, teachers will need time to both explore the best learning contexts for using Clicker 5's existing grid sets and for designing subject-specific grids and projects. However, after a few run-throughs, the process gets easier and is well worth the effort. For example, social studies teachers can help students learn key terms of the U.S. election process by downloading a set of word banks that students can use in their writing. Spanish teachers can select the Los Animales — Sentences grid, which lets kids construct Spanish sentences naming pictured animals from word banks. Click on the words and the program's speech function reads them aloud in Spanish (purchasing a Spanish speech engine is recommended). One of Clicker 5's strengths is that it can be used across the curriculum, so even math teachers can use writing grids to help students explain graphs.
Kristen Kennedy is a freelance author in the Pacific Northwest.