8th July 2005 at 01:00
PROBLEMATIC. Social Learning Software. pound;34 (plus VAT).

Designed for use with groups of older students (14-plus) the format of "Problematic" is that of a radio phone-in. Pupils act as "agony aunts" and respond to callers with one of three answers. If pupils find the text hard to read, a click will have it read out. Feedback is given for all three responses, after which Cameron Stout, winner of Big Brother 2003, poses a question to get pupils talking.

Discussion will be inevitable, as the "best advice" might be contentious. A depressed pupil gets sent to a GP, but one who is being teased about being in care doesn't get told to report the bully. A girl who fancies a staff member isn't told that a relationship could mean the teacher's imprisonment.

The "correct" answer doesn't always seem to be the best one, and even if you choose it the first time, the software locks you into going through every response. However, as a means of engaging pupils in conversations about these issues it could be useful. If you don't take it too seriously and question the "right" answers, this could provide a novel way of exploring common problems among young people.

John Galloway

Advisory teacher for ICTSEN, Tower Hamlets

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