Schools using virtual world to teach reading and writing skills

Schools in Barnsley are using virtual world software to teach children writing and comprehension skills.

Schools in Barnsley are using virtual world software to teach children writing and comprehension skills.

The borough council has implemented Active Worlds software, giving pupils access to a 3D virtual world similar to Second Life.

Pupils using the system go into a deserted town and follow clues to find out what has happened to the residents.

They also take part in reading and writing exercises to solve the clues and work out whether what has happened is an environmental disaster, an alien abduction, a reality TV show or a big business looking for oil that has made the residents disappear.

During the exercise, children work in pairs at computers. Each child is represented by an avatar, or a virtual person, and can meet other children in the fictional town, called Barnsborough. As they move through the town, they find clues such as discarded newspapers, which the whole class then looks at.

The 10 schools using the system have given positive feedback, with children "more engaged and motivated". The council is looking at rolling it out to 10 or 20 more, with pupils in years five and six taking part.

Paul Reese, ICT consultant at the council, said, "We thought we could use it to raise boys' attainment, because we thought the computer environment would appeal to them. But the whole class has been more engaged and motivated and the teachers say the quality of their work has been better."

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