Teenagers can pick up much more than new technology skills by building their own website, reports Stephen Manning. They weren't born when the Berlin Wall fell, but a team of six Year 10 pupils at Carmel RC Technology College in Darlington, Co Durham, has drawn inspiration from history's more peculiar stand-offs to create an award-winning website.
Their Cold War effort won the Age 15 and under category at ThinkQuest UK, an annual competition organised by the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust for pupils to create an educational website in small teams.
The two other big winners, recognised at an award ceremony in London last week, were Team H2O (19 and under), a website about water by sixth formers from Worcestershire schools, and Thomas More RC College, Stoke-on-Trent (12 and under) who tackled the subject of healthy eating.
The Carmel pupils - Jordan Glendenning, Jonathan McAlorum, Steven Snaith, Jonathan Lumsdon, Tom Caygill and Matthew Watson, under the guidance of "coach" Tim Robinson, technology teacher at the school, created a website with blocks of text set against an imposing dark grey backdrop, to reflect the austere nature of the era. The bulk of the material was taken from Wikipedia, with citations, and most of the work was done during school lunchbreaks.
The pupils chose the topic because, as a historical event, it had a lot in common with aspects that connect with modern computer games - focusing on strategies to overcome or avoid conflict, rather than all-out war. "It was a pretty good war in the sense that no shots were fired or missiles launched," says Tom Caygill, the team's leader.
"I realised I actually didn't know much about what went on - the issues and conflicts were much bigger than I had thought."
It was, after all, a very long stand-off, so there's certainly plenty of material for a detailed website. The many sections include the Second World War, McCarthyism, the Cuban missile crisis and the Space Race
View this year's winning websites and find out about next year's competition (the deadline for submissions is April 2) at www.thinkquestuk.org.uk
Book: GCSE ICT Complete Revision amp; Practice (CGP Books, pound;9.99) contains well-presented information and advice. Each section is followed by practice questions and a full practice exam can be found at the back of the book.
Software: GCSE IT (Idigicon Ltd, pound;13.99). Written by teachers, this includes data processing, operating systems, peripherals, security and IT in industry among others. Oh, and memory too.
Website: Teach-ICT has a GCSE section with revision notes, exam questions, topic notes, technology news, jokes and quizzes. There is also a quiz maker tool. www.teach-ict.comgcsehome.html