Virtual Vikings on real-time rampage
History classes across the country are to get the chance to ask "real" Vikings about what life was like 1,300 years ago thanks to the latest video-conferencing technology.
After a successful pilot scheme earlier this year, the team behind the Jorvik Viking Centre in York has enabled primary pupils to interact with Vikings using Skype video-conferencing.
The Experiences programme uses 45-minute sessions in which costumed characters engage with pupils and teachers via a live weblink, talk about their lives and show real Viking artefacts.
The sessions can also be recorded, allowing teachers to play back footage later and revisit the content in future lessons.
According to the York Archaeological Trust, the charity behind the Jorvik Centre, the technology allows schools that would normally be unable to travel to York to experience the historic findings for which the area is renowned.
Pupils will also be able to interact with Romans, Tudors, and the archaeologists themselves, to talk about their work.
Rachel Tumman, education manager at the archaeological trust, said: "The beauty is that they remove the boundaries of geography and enable any school with a broadband connection and interactive whiteboard to take part.
"The costumed characters can also show and talk about precious objects that are not generally available for public viewing. The children can also interact with the characters - in real time - either by speaking with them on screen or via a chatroom facility."
The idea of a computer-literate Viking, Roman or Tudor may seem strange, but Deborah Court, a teacher from All Saints Primary School in Montacute, Somerset, said the session with the talking Tudor "really engaged the class".
"The children really enjoyed the experience of seeing a `real life' Tudor, and being able to interact with him first hand was very exciting for them," she said.
"They were still talking about it a week later and were able to quote many things that they learnt about the period as a direct result of this activity."
The archaeological trust is now preparing to make the project available to all primary schools across the country.