London primary teacher Emily Funnell finds an illustrated internet encylopaedia that's perfect for her classroom - 'Q-files'

The Internet. It's the epitome of 21st century living. It's rare these days to go even a day without using the World Wide Web, be it for social interaction, professional emailing or even to find the answer to number 12 in the pub quiz while stealthily hiding your smartphone behind a coaster!

So, when the Internet is mentioned in the classroom, it's sometimes greeted with groans as the "27-year-old dinosaur" (yes I've been called that!) tries to educate those who are already technically literate about the possible dangers of something that dictates so much of modern life.

Many teachers are apprehensive about using the Internet for research. While the Googles, Bings, Yahoos and DuckDuckGos of the search engine world bring millions of answers to our fingertips, they also bring a multitude of dangers, misconceptions and downright absurdities along too.

'Content that is reliably sourced'

We need a child-friendly, teacher-friendly source of information without the complications of the academic world or the inaccuracies of the public forums. That's where Q-files comes in.

This website is not only child friendly - it's also teacher friendly, with content that is reliably sourced and presented in an interesting, accessible manner.

picqfilesValdiviaQuakeEarthquake damage in Valdivia, Chile (Wikimedia image from 'Q-files')This website is aimed primarily at children. By providing its readers with non-patronising, child-friendly explanations without sacrificing the scientific and specialised vocabulary, Q-Files has succeeded in creating a source of information that is both accessible and enjoyable. The pupils find Q-Files easy to navigate, with links to key vocabulary and related information, all available via a specialised tool bar.

While there are many, many websites where pupils are able to access information, Q-Files has been the most trustworthy and reliable site I've experienced. With citations for where images have been procured from and regulated information (not open to the public to edit), pupils, and teachers know they're using a trustworthy and reliable source. Many primary pupils in key stage 2 can find "children's" websites both condescending and immature for their age group.

Pupils 'feel a sense of maturity and pride'

My pupils feel that the Q-Files website treats them as learners by providing the definitions of key words, rather than merely 'dumbing down' the information. They feel a sense of maturity and pride at being able to not just read the information but to understand it and learn from it too. 

Q-Files also has a great customer support team, answering emails quickly and professionally. My pupils have enjoyed researching information to share with the Q-Files teams, to which the team responds by giving my pupils a real purpose for their writing!

Q-Files can be accessed from any device with an Internet connection. From laptops to smart phones, the site is just a click away. This has allowed many pupils to become better at working independently on research projects and home studies. Many parents have commented that their children have been using Q-Files at home as their main source of information, and a few have admitted to making it their default homework help in place of Wikipedia.

For a site of this calibre to not only be detailed, well researched and regulated but also free, is fantastic. A "must use" for primary classrooms.

Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose 5
Ease of use               4.5
Features                   4.5
Quality                      5
Value for money     5 (it's free!)

Free online illustrated encyclopaedia website for children aged 8 to 14 by children’s ebook reference publisher Orpheus Books. With more than 1200 pages (and more being added) it covers the curriculum for key stages 2 and 3 for a range of subjects relating to science, nature, history, geography, technology and the arts. As well as explanations it includes photos, illustrations, diagrams and videos.
Q-Files on Twitter: @QfilesOfficial

Emily FunnellEmily Funnell is an English teacher at Gallions Primary School in Beckton, east London. You can follow her on Twitter (@MissFunnell) and she runs her own blog, "For the love of literacy"