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Play us your dream games

Research centre asks teachers to design computer programmes to transform learning. Michael Shaw reports

Teachers are being asked to dream up computer games that would transform the way they teach pupils.

Futurelab, an educational research centre in Bristol, will give up to Pounds 100,000 and all the technical support needed to turn the best ideas into prototypes.

The laboratory's previous projects include Space Mission, in which students play scientists facing a fictional space disaster and take part in activities, video-conferencing and webchats to overcome it.

Annika Small, Futurelab's managing director, believes that the use of computer games in schools has turned a corner in the past two years. Poll findings by the laboratory suggest that six out of 10 teachers are willing to try them in lessons, and that three in 10 already do.

Other creations from Futurelab include Savannah, a game in which pupils pretend to be lions on the plains of Africa by walking around their school's playing field using handheld computers.

Its most recent prototype is Create Escape, which students use to create interactive tours of their schools and communities, which can include video and sound clips.

Futurelab was set up in 2002 by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and Arts, but this month became an independent charity.

Around a quarter of its pound;4 million-a-year funding is provided by the Department for Education and Skills, while the rest comes from research grants and software companies, including Microsoft and the games developer Electronic Arts.

NESTA has also given nearly pound;27,000 to help set up a website where schools can post short videos, which their pupils and teachers have filmed, of experiments in science and technology lessons.

The Films for Learning project originated at the Thomas Hardye school in Dorchester, Dorset, and features more than a dozen videos, including one showing the dissection of a cow's eyeball.

The deadline for Futurelab's call for ideas is May 12.www.nestafuturelab.orgyour_ideaswww.filmsforlearning.org

Look into the future: teenagers at the Orange Imaginarium in Bristol try out Futurelab software

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