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Fisher-Price Computer Cool School

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PRODUCT: Fisher-Price Computer Cool School ( Computer Cool School

DESCRIPTION: A 'get-ready-for-school' learning system which plugs directly into a PC, comprising of keyboard, digital drawing surface and pen-shaped mouse. Includes five learning centres to teach your child maths, reading and writing, science, art, and music. Also includes number and letter templates, 100+ printable activity sheets, learning CD, password-protected controls, USB cord, and instructions. Available in pink or white. Suitable for children aged 3 to 6 years.

INSTALLATION: Minimum system requirements include: 

  • Operating system: Microsoft® Windows VistaTM or Windows XP
  • Processor: 1.2GHz
  • Memory: 256MB RAM
  • Hard drive: 200MB available
  • Video: 800x600 32-bit color DirectX9.0c compatible
  • Sound: 16-bit DirectX compatible
  • CD or DVD drive
  • USB port
  • Not Mac-compatible

The user manual provided gives you very easy-to-follow instructions on connecting the system up to your computer, installing relevant software, setting parental controls, and accessing parent tips. In addition, the manual includes information on how to adjust the pen cord to cater for right-handed or left-handed users.

GOOD POINTS: The Computer Cool School is a wonderfully designed learning aid to prepare young children for school, which simply plugs into the USB port of an existing PC to provide hours of entertainment. It is very simple to set up, and installation of the software is quick and easy. 

It consists primarily of a brightly coloured and durable plastic 'QWERTY' keyboard, with a power button on the left, and five large buttons directly above the keys which relate to the different learning zones (termed 'centres'): Reading and Writing, Math, Art, Music and Science. Each learning centre button triggers a variety of activites in that subject for your child to work through. These include, among others, exercises to teach letter recognition, phonics, writing numbers and letters, numbers and counting, addition, drawing and creative expression, musical instruments and rhythm, and animal and plant facts.

All the controls are oversized to make them easy for small hands to manage, and the clear and colourful animated graphics include a range of characters, objects and screen scenes which make learning a fun experience rather than a chore.

Beneath the power button are three further buttons. Firstly, a 'Field Trip' button, enables your child to take a virtual field trip to a farm, where they can click on various games and activities. Beneath this is a 'Print +' button, which allows your child to print off reward certificates, as well as choose from a large selection of supplementary activity worksheets to encourage learning to continue even after the computer has been turned off! The lower button, a 'Classroom' button, allows your child to go to the main classroom-themed home screen, where they are greeted by Leo the Leopard, and from where they can also choose their activities.

To the right of the keyboard is a tablet with an attached thick-handled stylus pen for writing and  drawing. This digital drawing pad is ideal for aiding your child with their writing and creative skills, and a series of letter and number templates can be placed under the the writing tablet cover (if required) to enable younger users to trace over the templates with the pen. A selection of buttons at the top of the tablet can be used with the art centre to allow your child to draw endless pictures using a variety of stamps, colours, patterns and backgrounds, which they can then save and print.

An important and useful feature of the system is the parental controls option, which enables parents to set background music and volume level, and also password protect screens to block their child accessing their computer desktop or internet websites.

In our opinion, this is a great 'no batteries required' child-friendly learning system which has been well thought out, and includes a wide range of stimulating activities to promote keyboarding skills, as well as essential reading and writing basics. In addition, a variety of add-on CD ROM software is available to expand further learning and use.

BAD POINTS: May take you and your child a short while to get used to navigating around the system and using the tablet and stylus to write (which are very touch sensitive), but the system is simple enough to use once this has been mastered. The volume control cannot be adjusted once play has begun. The Cool School is not compatible with Windows 7.

PRICE: Approx. £50. Each additional piece of software approx. £20.

Available from Amazon: Computer Cool School

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