Educational games

9th March 2001 at 00:00

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Subscription from pound;60 including VAT EducationCity is the latest in a fairly long string of attempts to put educational activities online. What we have here is a subscription website that offers games across a range of subject areas for primary and secondary phases, including maths, English, languages and science.

EducationCity acknowledges that these are "edutainment", and the offerings in this case are pretty much what you might expect. There are more than 60 games with clear animations and simple, easy-to-grasp interfaces that children will enjoy at one level or another. Teachers can track pupils' progress, and they also have the option to enter their own questions into the games.

But that's not really the point; this seems to be an idea whose time has not yet come. Why would a school want to access these rather lightweight offerings via the net, when much better equivalents are available on disc. By using the net as a delivery system, EducationCity limits itself to FlashShockwave-driven software that seems trivial, while failing to take advantage of the power of remote server systems to organise and track pupil progress. There's n apparent attempt to create a coherent pathway through the games - differentiation and progression are catered for to the extent that teachers can choose games via a key stagesubject menu, but no part of the system will suggest where the child might go next.

What we're being presented with is the same stuff we've been seeing for 20 years: games that are initially attractive but which children soon tire of. They're fine as a little reinforcement, though watch out for the occasional design gaffe and slightly wobbly content - "If I get help it will make a difference" is correct, but "If I get help it makes a difference" is marked wrong, which it might be, but try explaining it to a nine-year-old (or me, for that matter). They could be useful for special needs and withdrawal groups, but why add the unreliability of the internet as a further worry for a stressed teacher?

However, the cost works out at around pound;5 per program, which you can buy in small agesubject segments. So, if you're in need of additional rehearsal materials this is at least worth a look. But take advantage of the three-week trial period before spending the money.

Marshal Anderson

Marshal Anderson is a freelance educational ICT consultant developing an online learning system for home-tutored students in Derbyshire

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