The chance to publish online reveals hidden talents, says Harriet Swain
"Karl treads on a soft sponge and it soothes his blistering feet, but he doesn't realise, until it's too late, that he has trodden on a deadly cone shell..." Karl's adventure is about to come to an end, but his creators at Holne Chase Combined School in Milton Keynes have achieved digital immortality.
Adventure Island is a free online tool, created by Kids on the Net, that helps to develop children's imagination and writing skills. Best of all, it enables them to have their work published. The idea is to create an online island which other people can explore. Teachers log on to the teachers' section on the website and choose a design for their island from a selection of different maps. It is then over to the pupils.
Each island is made up of 36 grids. Once the class has decided where visitors to the island will "land", and what kind of writing to use - description, diary, third person narrative, guide written in the second person - individual pupils can concentrate on a particular grid and start writing about what happens there. Four extra pieces of writing are needed to set the four clues which visitors have to collect in order to secure their escape, and the class can also choose to include traps, such as the deadly cone shell.
Once the written work is finished, all teachers need to do is check the story and links and email it along with any images or video clips to the website. Staff at Kids on the Net check the text and activate the island so that others are free to explore it.
Adventure Island is designed to fit into the Year 67 transition unit related to the book Kensuke's Kingdom, by Michael Morpurgo. But it can be used in different ways for older and younger age groups to explore various writing styles and discuss moral and practical issues.
Cathy McCarthy, ICT co-ordinator at Holne Chase, says using the island encouraged collaboration because all the children had to write in the same style. Particularly striking, she says, was how it caught the imagination of boys, who liked not only the computer game and adventure aspects but also the idea that other people were going to see it. This made them keen to produce their best work, and motivated some to show writing talent they had not displayed before. By contrast, many of the girls liked the idea that their work would be seen by others without having their name attached.
The Adventure Island website includes useful teaching notes and pupil worksheets, although instructions on how to set up your island could be clearer. However, online support is offered to anyone who gets stuck.
http:kotn.ntu.ac.ukadventureisland Email: email@example.com