Drama that's on the ball
Final Score Learning Pack (includes two CD-Roms, activity sheets and teachers' notes) Single User Pack pound;149; 5 User licence pound;199; 10 User Licence pound;249 from Dramatic Media Tel: 01624 845125 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Most educational CD-Roms make little use of the possibilities of multimedia.
They rarely get away from the linear narrative we see in books. A teacher said to me recently that software often appears to go straight from the programmer's head into the classroom. That could explain why so much software doesn't hit the mark.
Three years ago Dramatic Media produced a CD-Rom called Secrets. By taking the narrative apart, it told the story of a boy who goes missing. The stimulating thing about this resource was the way the reader was put in control and had to navigate their own way through the unfolding drama.
There had been nothing quite like it and it received some very good reviews.
Fast forward three years and Dramatic Media has just completed its second package. Final Score, like Secrets, is aimed at 12 to 14-year-olds and will appeal even to those who are sophisticated users of multimedia. It contains a wealth of reading, writing, speaking and listening activities that tie into the English national curriculum for key stages 3-4.
It is not as whizzbang as most games software but then educational companies do not have those kinds of budgets. Shot with three actors and a small professional crew, the whole production has a finished quality that will draw in the audience.
The narrative revolves around Jason Fleming, a football star who disappears from public view five days before a big match. Is he injured? Is the pressure of celebrity pushing him over the edge? Could it be something more sinister? A journalist, Amy Gray, tries to track down Jason and, with the help of the student user of the program eventually unravels the truth behind the story.
Superficially the material is about football, but as the work moves forward it is about so much more. The footballer's girlfriend also has a story to tell and as the story progresses students are asked to consider the behaviour of journalists, and the way that news is reported. Mobile phones ring with messages. You can even search the office of one character and rummage through the waste bin.
The drama is presented in five, eight-minute episodes which are linked to a range of computer-based activities including scriptwriting, media text analysis, role play and creative writing exercises.
My favourite part is "Smooth Edit", a multimedia audio editing tool used to create a radio broadcast. Each student is required to edit a radio broadcast for the late night news. From a selection of sound bites and statements, students drag and drop audio clips on to a timeline and compile a radio report, over which they exercise editorial control. The test of material like this is: how compelling will students find it? Will the storyline have credibility? Will the games players find the presentation acceptable? Will the dilemmas intrigue students and are they close enough to current preoccupations?
Creators Caroline Webster (who worked as an actress for many years and played a paramedic in BBC1's Casualty) and former deputy head Julie Laslett trialled the package in schools in Tameside in the North-west. The impressive thing was the way in which Tameside students warmed to Final Score.
Brenda Cochrane, who teaches English at Longdendale Community Language College in Hyde Cheshire, introduced Final Score to a Year 10 group: "I used it to support their learning for the GCSE non-fiction paper for English which often features newspaper articles or asks them to write articles themselves. We used the speaking and listening activities and the students gained a greater awareness of bias in newspapers and the difference between news and comment. They enjoyed it because it was very interactive and topical and the story was a really big hook for them."
ICT adviser Norman Crawford, who helped to publicise the trial to Tameside schools, is equally positive about the resource. He says: "We are trying to encourage e-learning across all subject areas. The pupils who have used it have found themselves immersed in the storyline and all the schools using it have been complimentary about it. The whole package is provides something beyond the usual educational software."
But actions speak louder than words and the most heartening thing for Dramatic Media is that all the schools that have trialled it have agreed to buy it.
* English is the Subject Focus in next week's TES Teacher
Dramatic Media will be demonstrating Final Score on stand SW81 at the BETT Show in Olympia, London which runs from January 12-15. BETT is the biggest educational ICT event in the UK and the latest resources will be unveiled at the show, which will feature more than 500 exhibitors. Close to 100 seminars covering all key stages and curriculum areas will also be available. This week's Online, free with The TES, gives a comprehensive guide to the show. www.bettshow.co.uk