In the news - Stephen Astley

3rd June 2011 at 01:00

Stephen is an assistant headteacher at Ladybridge High School in Bolton, Lancashire, and has developed a computer game that helps students with their homework. Called Arcadu, the game has led to pupils ditching their X-boxes for more testing gaming.

What is Arcadu?

It's a game that asks students questions they have to get right before they can play an arcade-style game. It has 14 subjects, and you can never be asked the same question twice as long as you keep progressing. There are 10 Flash games on the site, and each one costs thousands to develop, so I decided to invest in it.

Why did you develop it in the first place?

It wasn't like I was having a mid-life crisis or anything. My school was in line to receive Building Schools for the Future money and I was in charge of the school's ICT, but everything I looked at that was on offer didn't really seem to speak to the children. We had a VLE (virtual learning environment), but that never really took off. I started to think of using computer games to get the kids interested, but the ones on offer weren't edgy enough.

So you decided to come up with your own?

I approached a number of companies who could put together games. It takes a graphic designer to come up with something that looks good enough. I employed a company to build the site and they designed the features. It took five months to create. I wanted the site to have a Matrix feel to it, which I think we achieved.

How successful has it been?

It's already in about 18 schools, but I have my day job so it is difficult to get it out there properly. I've been told some kids have been swapping their normal computer consoles to play it. I think it is the league table that drives the kids on. On average, pupils will score 10,000 to 20,000 points, but one lad racked up five million and he answered about 3,600 questions correctly. I think the school will have to tell his parents to get him off the computer.

Will you be retiring off the back of its success?

I think that may be some way off yet. My primary job is being a teacher, but hopefully this game will reduce the clashes between parents and their children when it comes to homework. If the child says they've done all their work, then the parent can tell them to play an hour of Arcadu and at least they know they are being tested. I'm now looking at developing the league table aspect of it and I have investigated designing an app for smartphones. But to develop a gaming app for the iPhone costs upwards of #163;40,000, so that might be some way off.

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