Can't stop, Miss: my band's gigging in Lisbon tonight

23rd May 2008 at 01:00
Primary pupils turn virtual rock stars to learn educational and social skills
Primary pupils turn virtual rock stars to learn educational and social skills

It must be the first rock band to be inspired by a curriculum objective.

When Blair Mackie, 12, was trying to think of a name for his band, he spotted a curriculum wallchart which said one of the aims was to create "effective contributors".

And so the band Effective Pain was born. Or at least virtually created, for Elrick Primary in Aberdeenshire is using the computer simulation game Guitar Hero II to inspire and motivate its pupils.

The game, which uses a simplified plastic guitar as a controller, is more about co-ordination skills than musicianship. Players hit buttons on the guitar and strum it in time with symbols on the computer screen, gaining points for accuracy.

On Friday afternoons, Blair and his classmates can be heard thrashing out rock classics by bands such as Black Sabbath and Lynyrd Skynyrd. The PlayStation2 game is played just once a week, but it is the springboard for a range of interdisciplinary educational activities associated with life as a rock star.

Pupils organise world tours for the bands, playing in cities such as Paris, Rome and Lisbon. They price and book flights, and hire vehicles using the internet. They write songs, design CD covers and make their own guitars in art class. They have conducted science experiments to explore how sound travels. They learn about the geography and culture of countries they visit, and write enthusiastically about the bands on websites and postcards.

Aloyise Mulligan, their teacher, introduced the game at Elrick after hearing about it at an e-learning conference organised by Aberdeenshire Council. Its educational benefits were tested last year at Meldrum Primary in Inverurie.

Mrs Mulligan said Guitar Hero had boosted her pupils' confidence and attainment, particularly in writing. "I can't wait to get in in the mornings because I have a class that wants to be here with me," she said.

She admits that using games to motivate children may raise eyebrows among some parents at first but, once they see the results, they tend to become converts.

Two girls did have a slight panic during a lesson when they thought they had bought flights they were researching, until their teacher explained they would have needed a credit card.

Ryan Clark, 11, has called his band Fire Angels. "This is more fun than doing a worksheet and it stays in your memory afterwards," he said.

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