Log on and go clubbing
When P7 pupils at Cornton Primary in Stirling get their turn on the computer, they often go straight to the GridClub, an education website for seven to 11-year-olds with games and a chatroom endorsed by the Scottish Executive.
It was launched by 4Learning, Intuitive Media and Oracle about two years ago and while teacher advisers behind the scenes keep an eye on what goes on, once children are registered they can go to areas that neither teachers nor parents can enter.
When Kristi Waghorn visits the Animal Attic she responds to a site survey about swimming with seals, whales, dolphins and porpoises. She gives dolphins her vote and posts an e-mail message to register her point.
Mission of the Day is another option and today's is a light-hearted task on healthy eating: "If you want to be a balanced babe, you have to eat different foods." The children have fun submitting their suggestions to Mission Control, for which they gain points.
Five pupils are particularly excited about taking part in "I'm a GridClubber. Get me out of here!", a club version of the television game.
They have to convince others of their strengths to avoid being ejected from the jungle. In their first mission they have to write 40 words of self-publicity. The competition is fierce and the pupils are concerned that a competitor from another school might prove a threat to their survival.
In the club's Chat Cafe, Pop Idols is a hot topic of discussion. Kellie Flynn has written an article in support of Darius Danesh, the runner-up in the television competition. "It's great to be able to make your point and see your name in print," she says.
Schools registering with GridClub receive access to the international online learning community Think.com, which gives them their own sites and lets club conversations extend across the world.
As the pupils read fellow GridClubbers' articles and messages, they explore where they come from by clicking on a contributor's name. They enjoy guessing nationalities and home towns and show an impressive knowledge of the geography of Britain.
Billy McGinn, who has built a site based on his love of skateboarding, calls it up to review the contents. He is pleased with a new image of an impressive skateboard flip-kick, imported from another member's site.
Classroom assistant Liz Bailey has worked with the children on GridClub and is impressed by how much they want to write and swap information. "Their websites mean a lot to them," she says.
The children also use the website to access information for class projects and homework. GridClub links to the 4Learning website Homework High, which covers key subjects in the curriculum. Mrs Bailey has also created her own site on the Second World War.
However, the children's greatest enthusiasm is for GridClub's games and they are delighted to discover a new one. In just learning how to play a game, says one boy, they are improving their computer skills. "And we're having to make decisions in the game, which can involve numbers, spelling, science or even French," he adds.