In 1984, my class of 10-year-olds spent six weeks engaged in one of the most inspirational units of work I ever undertook with children. The study used a text-based adventure program called Adventure Island. The success of this whole cross-curricula venture was due in no small part to the fact that it was the children's own imaginations at work, not computer graphics.
Some 16 years later, Adventure Island has been revamped. Archipelago is the name of the new version, with options for differing abilities, including extension for pupils who are gifted and talented.
Archipelago places "adventurers" somewhere on an island where they will have to tackle various problems. It is substantially text-based with some on-screen images to help stimulate ideas and discussion. It could be used as part of a termly literacy plan, but could also be used in short bursts. The software covers team problem solving, collaboration, decision-making, diary recording, personal health and hygiene and survival!
It's best tackled by dividing the class into groups (up to four), with each group placed on the island for a preselected number of simulated days. Members of each group must then work together in order to survive. Each group is on its own and cannot meet with other groups on the island. Nor will the actions of one group have any effect on any other. With the teacher options available, levels can be set to suit pupils of varying abilities.
It needs a comprehensive introduction by the teacher to secure children's understanding of the goals and targets. With thorough preparation, Archipelago should help to provide stimulating and thought-provoking work in class.
There are some lovely touches that were not available in the 1984 version. For instance, digital images of the adventurers' own "identity photographs" can be used and there's use made throughout of texting on the mobile phone for help and information.
After four visits I have become a pretty experienced adventurer. In Archipelago, the emphasis is quite different than with Adventure Island. While the former has much to do with PSHE goals, the latter was more about delivering all parts of the curriculum via the adventure. This is not to take anything away from what is a most engaging computer-based task. It is more a reflection of today's straightjacket curriculum that allows little leeway for the imaginative approach to teaching and learning. As with any resource like this, it is the teacher's skill in setting the scene, establishing the goals and objectives and providing minimal intervention that will make or break it.
Fitness for purpose ***
Ease of use ***
Value for money ****
Adventure software for primary schools
Price: pound;49.95 + VAT 1 CD pack
pound;79.95 + VAT 4 CD pack
Cambridgeshire Software House, PO Box 163, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, PE28 3UR
Tel: 01487 741223
Fax: 01487 741213