Chris Drage finds his old gaming favourites on VLEs, courtesy of Birchfield

Screen Birchfield games softwareBirchfield Interactive’s new Virtual Learning Environment Games and Question Editing Software aims to convince students to log on to a learning platform from home to revise and extend their learning by making it fun.

It's vital for school VLEs to be populated with motivating materials. Not only should they be capable of meeting learning objectives; they should also be engaging, especially for disaffected learners. With 100 per cent curriculum coverage Birchfield Interactive is attempting just that.

Suitable for all teaching and learning styles, there are eight game formats for teachers to choose from. They can then personalise topic-specific questions from extensive question banks to create fun and engaging activities to complement in-class teaching.

This software is designed to make revision enjoyable with the added stimulus of an arcade-style game. It offers teachers the flexibility to use Birchfield's pre-loaded questions or create and share entirely new questions and answers for a wide selection of animated games in which students progress as they correctly answer topic-related questions.

The games are flexible enough to enable teachers to use them in many different ways; for example, to ascertain comprehension of a particular topic, a series of games can be set to aid revision of a certain subject at home. Additionally, games are differentiated by length, thus allowing teachers to choose a game appropriate to the time allotted.

Written by practising teachers, the questions encompass 413 key stage 3 and 4  topics, and can be uploaded to one or more of 12 arcade-style games, all of which vary in terms of style, play duration, number of levels, and degree of difficulty. These question sets can be edited or supplemented before being uploaded to a game. Thus there is scope for teachers to control the level of difficulty to cater for SEN students or to extend learning opportunities for the gifted and talented. Each game provides feedback for pupils and concludes with a summary of the questions that have been asked, the answers given, and the correct answers.

Although none of this sounds resoundingly new or innovative, where Birchfield Interactive scores is in the software’s ability to interact with a virtual learning environment to track progress for teachers - provided the school’s chosen learning platform currently offers this functionality. Uploaded to a SCORM-compliant learning platform, the Games Packs would be accessible to staff and pupils 24 hours a day, seven days a week from home or school. If the school has still to make the move to a learning platform, the software is compatible with a standard web browser, so can be accessed across a network.

For me this was deja vu. Here under a new guise are all the old games I played years ago on my faithful BBC Model B: Pac Man, Meteors, Snake, Space Invaders, Catapult, Pelmanism, Word Search, 3D Maze - all dressed up with new titles.

The set of questions I chose was geography and, adding a couple of my own questions and editing a few of Birchfield’s set questions, I proceeded to link these to a chosen game. My progress through the game was dependent on a combination of both my gaming abilities and my knowledge.

Although the software follows a simplistic knowledge-based, question-and-answer format, Birchfield Interactive is to be congratulated for being one of the first UK companies to offer SCORM-compliant curriculum content for learning platforms and one that teachers will find is an enjoyable way to reinforce students' learning at key stages 3 and 4 via a VLE.

Ratings (out of 5)

Fitness for purpose   4
Ease of use               4
Features                   4
Quality                      5
Value for money       3

Birchfield Games Pack and QE - School Solution
Software for designing curriculum-based games for school virtual learning environments (conforms to SCORM 2004/1.2 standards), £249 per subject (perpetual school licence) or £2,999 for 19 secondary subjects (prices ex VAT). Prumary packs for literacey, numeracy and science.
Not sure whether it is for you? Birchfield Interactive offers a 21-day, full-trial version for evaluation.
Birchfield Interactive Ltd, The Media Centre, FREEPOST SWC 1643, Cardiff CF5 6ZZ.
Tel: 0800 915 6616
Fax: 0800 138 8895
www.birchfield.co.uk

Chris DrageChris Drage is a CISCO Regional Academy manager and an adviser and trainer with Central Brent Education Improvement Partnership. You can contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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