Virtual lessons entice the truants

Virtual reality lessons and computer games in the classroom may raise eyebrows among educational traditionalists, but they are...

Virtual reality lessons and computer games in the classroom may raise eyebrows among educational traditionalists, but they are both part of a Hackney Council scheme to bring disaffected pupils back into mainstream learning, writes Marc Abasna-Jones.

Hackney Council is trialling a Net-based system to help disaffected children get more out of education

Hackney Council has teamed up with the Corporation of London and online learning developer Hoxton Bibliotech to develop a teaching resource to get children excited about learning. Called the Hackney Project, the idea is to use virtual reality-based multimedia software to help teach six curriculum areas in key stages three and four.The scheme also ties in with the Government's drive for greater online education.

Using 2Mbit ADSL lines from BT, the trial project, which concludes in mid-April, will enable pupils to access six intranets. Online projects include building a 3D virtual art exhibition, composing and appraising digital music and maths practice using an interactive globe and time zone tool.

"We need to ensure that children's use of computers in the classroom provides some of the buzz they get from playing media-intensive games in their leisure time," explains Ian Peacock, chairman of Hackney Council's Education Committee. "Creating stimulating broadband teaching resources is also a way of bringing back disaffected pupils back into mainstream learning."

In addition to art, music and maths, there is also a humanities area offering an essay writing tool, a modern languages area with innovative ways of memorising vocabulary and grammar using sounds and video, and an area dedicated to something called citizenship (a role-playing area that attempts to highlight differences within societies).

All the curriculum software is being integrated into the council's existing Hackney Learning Live broadband intranet to enable teachers and pupils to access the courseware and resources across the borough. The aim is to get both teachers and pupils working more closely in the development of IT.

Peacock says the Education Committee is looking to expand its work, particularly if the project is successful. "As the first educational broadband consortium in London we are now eager to attract potential partners to explore how we might further exploit our team's creative approach to the design of educational tools," he says.

Project benefits

The Hackney Project aims to stimulate pupils into more productive learning and attract disaffected pupils back into the mainstream. To achieve this, it has:

  • Interactive and 3D environments to add to the general interest level in an attempt to make learning fun for everyone

  • Quick access via ADSL to ensure that loss of concentration or impatience is kept to a minimum

  • Internet materials geared to the national curriculum

  • Afocus on expanding teachers' and pupil's IT skills and encouraging more creative uses of computer technology across the curriculum.

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