INDEX BY: Edition / Title
Fuzzbuzz - Level One Word Learning
PC or Mac
Fuzzbuzz - Level One Word Learning
published in 1998 by Granada Learning with Oxford

Fuzzbuzz - Level One Word Learning

The CD-ROM, which complements the Fuzzbuzz reading scheme, comes with a booklet with installation instructions (easy to load) and which also outlines the activities available. There are three main menus: the student menu, which allows teachers to customise pupil access to words to be learnt, and to record that process and ensures that by clicking on their own name, pupils are guided in to the correct programme; the Flower menu contains 16 activities divided in to three groups: learning activities, where pupils hear words spoken and by clicking on appropriate pictures, can begin early word identification activities; matching activities, where pupils are required to listen to a word and then identify the correct written version; and reading activities, that deal with word recognition. The activities are all graded as easy, medium and difficult and provide clear indications in the booklet of those teachers are advised to explore for themselves before pupils use the program.

The graphics are attractive and the characters (Fuzzbuzz and the Slinx) provide good guidance on the use of the program. Learning reinforcement could be better designed (incorrect answers just lead to the same, if rephrased question, in many of the sections) and some of the word choices could be rethought to build on for example word families.

The booklet tells us that the CD was designed with a target audience of children with moderate or specific learning difficulties. Clearly multi-sensory reinforcement is appropriate for both groups - but it also effective for all children learning to read - so I would not exclude early readers as potential users of this CD. Equally, however, I cannot see the specific strategies other than multi-sensory which would apply to the named target audience. The authors may wish to rethink this introduction for any future editions.

The proof as the say, is in the eating. With this in mind, one of my colleagues tried the program out with her own two young children. Her account follows, and Farran's enthusiasm at least is convincing.

-- Fuzzbuzz is a CD-ROM designed to help children develop their vocabulary with a variety of word-learning, matching and reading games acid activities. The games all feature the characters from the Fuzzbuzz reading scheme, and the CD-ROM is designed for use in conjunction with the books. However both my children enjoyed the activities, so I think they work well enough to be used as reinforcement for any child learning to read.

I liked the bright packaging and the instruction booklet (mind you I read the instructions on everything). It's all very well putting installation instructions on 'Readme' files, but having a booklet means you can get an idea of the CD-ROM without needing a PC in front of you.

Having said that, I only read the first couple of pages and then stuck the thing on the PC. Installation was quick and easy (helped by the fact it was the first topic in the instruction booklet). Despite my enthusiasm, I found it a bit harder from then on: the use of non-standard symbols on the 'Fuzzbuzz Banner' (volume control acid access to other screens) threw me a bit. I thought it could have been made simpler by using a word or two as a label.

All this is quite a trivial matter, and the enthusiasm Farran (four) and Luke (six) had for the games soon put things into perspective. I spent the weekend trying to get a go at the various games, but the children always beat me to it. The learning games weren't as popular as the others, although Farran had a bit of a play with them. Luke's favourite was the 'Fuzzworld Adventure', described in the blurb as designed to encourage "problem-solving and visual discrimination skills". He also liked "Beat the Slinx", a "timed word recognition activity", because it was the most like a traditional game (and when he won he got a mini-cartoon for a reward). Farran preferred the matching activities, all varieties on the matching pairs card game (which, interestingly, I have never before persuaded either of the children to play for more than a minute or two).

The CD-ROM has many good features - the teacher can individualise the system for a particular class by pre-setting up to twenty different sets of words according to ability. I also liked the fact that the children very quickly learnt how to use the activities without supervision (many re-start so they can be played over again). And of course the games help the children master basic ICT skills: Luke's a veteran PC user of a year or so, but Farran has lacked confidence. She tackled the Fuzzbuzz games with alacrity and her mouse-skills noticeably improved.

The CD-ROM is designed for children with learning difficulties, however I think it would have a useful place in any classroom as an aid to early reading skills, the games are fun, varied enough to hold the attention and well-designed. Farran, as usual can have the last word: "Say it's really good and fun and your child loves it".

Sue Brindley with Corrin Mitchell
University of Cambridge