If you were a fan of the game Twister, you will love Floorstation. Imagine a thicker, rubberised version of the Seventies party game, throw in a more attractive and complex design and add an interactive element, and you'll have an inkling of how it works.
Even before they had any idea what Floorstation was or what it could do, pupils and nursery children at Essendine primary school, Westminster, were intrigued. The four interlocking panels with their colourful columns of shapes are certainly eye-catching. When connected, the panels measure 120cm x 42cm and weigh 10kg. Floorstation's storage bag makes it easy to move from classroom to classroom.
The panels are linked to a computer through a compact electronic interface box and the basic package comes with the Jungle Adventure CD-Rom which includes four games that test visual, audio, memory, spatial awareness and motor skills.
To play the games, you press a square on the mat to activate a response on-screen. The panels are robust and can take the weight of adults and enthusiastic children as long as they're not wearing shoes.
Squish the Bugs and Music Mat are the only games that can realistically be used with nursery children. They loved laying Squish the Bugs, but had to rely on an adult to point out which square to tread on. They paid little attention to what was happening on-screen, but the children waiting their turn seemed to get almost as much out of the activity by pointing to the right square as the child on the mat. In our trial session, the seven-year-olds picked up Squish the Bugs very quickly.
While Squish the Bugs tests spatial awareness, Puzzle Game and Match the Animals rely much more on memory. Match the Animals was tricky and more suited to older pupils. Music Mat requires audio and co-ordination skills and is one of the easier games to play.
Setting up Floorstation was simple although one of the plug-ins was difficult to secure, making the mat response on one panel a bit hit-or-miss. Loading was quick but you'll need some nifty mouse control to activate one or two of the games.
To extend the range of Floorstation, ABLAC is about to release new games for foundation stage and for disaffected secondary students. Variations of the games on Jungle Adventure are widely available on existing websites and CD-Roms. But encouraging group participation is difficult when one person is in charge of the mouse. The active element makes all the difference.
The best thing about Floorstation is its wide appeal. It's fun and addictive - for adults and children.