A new series of interactive readers looks set to bridges the gap between computer games and books, says Colin Richardson
Teachers have lost sight of teaching reading for pleasure. As a profession we have been accused of making reading seem boring to children. Could this have anything to do with the modern alternatives to reading such as DVDs and computer games?
Digitexts successfully reaches reluctant readers by bridging the gap between computer games and "old-fashioned" entertainment - reading. It is as though Longman has studied the reviews in computer games magazines and created a must-have list of features to attract children and sustain their interest.
Using the Digitext Feargal Fly Private Eye, you must help useless detective Feargal solve a crime. This caught the eye of every child in the class. The authors know their audience, as within seconds we were laughing at puns and wordplay such as "I Mendit" the tailor. Although highly amusing to the children this is an opportunity to teach objectives from the literacy strategy based upon word play.
The simplicity of this program is its main appeal. As we read, opportunities for teaching and learning leapt out from the whiteboard. The software is supported by a teacher booklet that offers comprehensive yet easy-to-read advice on how the text fits into the literacy hour. The texts can be used during a session focusing on guided reading with example questions, opportunities for drama and writing.
Using the Digipad tool, children can make notes on anything they think important in solving the case, and can refer back to it during the text.
This is an ideal opportunity to show the children how to take notes and for them to practise it in subsequent chapters.
As it's a small, simple program, it can be easily loaded on to any network regardless of its age and can be used in the ICT suite where each child can log on and have their work recorded. This is where ICT can truly be integrated in the literacy hour as the children are concentrating upon literacy, yet ICT is providing the opportunity for practice.
It is not simply a literacy-based piece of software; it can also be used to support ICT objectives such as multimedia authoring. My children were entranced by the fact that they could choose their own path through the text and make decisions. Their look of excitement as we chose a path was incredible. By looking at the chapter map we explored how the text was arranged. The maps show how hyperlinks are used to link different areas of the chapter and allow you to make choices. The children were then able to recreate similar stories using digital photography and PowerPoint.
As with any good teaching tool, this software is easily usable for both adults and children. The interface is familiar to the children as it replicates many of the games they play on the internet at home or school.
Adults will be able to use the text without scouring through pages of instructions. It truly is pick-up-and-play software at its best. All the icons used to access other tools are clear and simple to use. The interface is the same across all of the different Digitexts and so children will feel comfortable in using the software throughout the school.
There are currently eight Digitext titles available - four fiction, four non-fiction - which are aimed at all years throughout key stage 2 offering variety and value for money. My children were disappointed that it lacked speech files from the characters and in other Digitexts such as The Lost Boy the amount of choice within the story became more limited.
One final point: Feargal Fly Private Eye is so enjoyable it should not be limited to Year 3 - pass it on to Year 6 after SATs.
Colin Richardson teaches at St Monica's Primary School, Liverpool
Other Digitext titles
Fiction: Danger! Monsters! Aiens! (Year 3); Drag 'N' Drop (Year 5); The Lost Boy (Year 5).
Non-fiction: Extreme Habitats (Year 4); Ice Bricks and Straw Roofs (Year 4); Peak Adventures (Year 6) Fields of Glory: the Diary of Walter Tull (Year 6).