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'Kill dull software'

Lord Puttnam has called on Britain's computer game creators to turn their world-renowned talents to education, reports Clare Dean.

BRITAIN'S computer whizz-kids are being urged to transform the UK into the Hollywood of education - dreaming up games to give pupils the same adrenalin rush from learning as they get from killing monsters.

They will be encouraged by Lord Puttnam, the film-maker and Government education adviser, later this month to bring the excitement and pizazz of entertainment to the world of education.

He will deliver his rallying call at the BAFTA interactive entertainment awards on July 21.

Estelle Morris, the schools standards minister, and Chris Smith, the heritage secretary, are expected at the event sponsored by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts - the so-called national fund for talent.

Lord Puttnam told The TES: "We have a third of the creative games producers in the world. The idea is to get them to understand the extraordinary opportunities in education for their skills."

The talents of producers at the moment are channelled into devising games which involved children killing people, he said, and asked: "Can they now apply those skills to learning?" He has already had a meeting with Sony, whose next generation PlayStation, capable of incorporating film and video technology, will be launched on the European market in autumn 2000. It is described as a "games machine with emotions" and a spokeswoman said: "If you want to educate in the way that Sesame Street does it is going to be possible. The games character will laugh with you and it will get cross with you. You can feel empathy, fear and happiness."

Lord Puttnam, delivering the Lord Alexander Memorial Lecture to the Society of Education Officers in London, said: "If used responsibly there is no doubt electronic images and technology can be a very significant force for good.

"Digital technology can be an utterly invaluable tool yet there is very little evidence that anyone has begun to optimise the teaching and learning potential offered education by it. This is where the real opportunity for the country lies."

Mark Gordon, from Syrox Development in Kingston, London, which has a 15-strong games team, said: "A lot of the work on games is on the same basis of being educated - you learn one skill and then go on to another. The process becomes seamless "You don't think you are being trained or that you are doing something that you would have thought impossible before."

Lord Puttnam said there was a lack of high-quality software for the schools, which were expected to spend at least 15 per cent of grants obtained through the pound;1 billion National Grid for Learning on it.

He said: "Consider the impact of the buying power if LEAs pooled their resources. The private sector will pour resources, money, time and ingenuity into software but we have to show them there's a market-place."

Councils, however, voiced their concern about the loss of flexibility.

Lord Puttnam, 15 News 7 TESJjuly 9 1999 Aagh: Game-makers are urged to transfer the excitement of Lara Croft to schools

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