Chris Drage reviews Lifelines software from Rising Stars
aims to stimulate writing and develop speaking and listening skills with nine innovative, short "movies" based on historical and geographic themes.
Aimed at key stage 3, the resource comprises a Lifelines CD-Rom and teacher's book and has been designed to be viewed via an interactive whiteboard. Described by publisher Rising Stars as a compilation of "filmic shorts", the resource blends audio, video and still images to create nine engaging stories told from children’s perspectives.
In fact, most of the stories rely on the well-known ‘Ken Burn’s Effect’ of panning and zooming still images to create the illusion of a movie. The Lifelines stories provide:
Links to geography: I am Thiago – Life on the Amazon; I am Kima – Life in Tornado Alley; I am Fallon – Life in the Hebrides; I am Chena – Life on the ice, I am Keiko – Life in techno Tokyo;
Links to history: I am Rose – Life in the Blitz; I am Edward – Life as a chimney sweep; I am Joe – Life as a powder monkey; I am Ngumi – Life on a slave ship
The teacher’s book has quick start guide which outlines the key features of Lifelines to help teachers quickly get the most out of the resource. You can play the whole story through (each story lasts for approximately 5–7 minutes) and this is probably the recommended option if your class is watching the story for the first time. Alternatively the stories can be viewed screen-by-screen, stopping in between for discussion.
The chapter numbers are displayed along the bottom of the screen and are selected directly. Clicking on the >> icon moves the story forward to the next chapter. By using the chapter numbers you can hop to any stage of the story.
I particularly like the way each story can be also be viewed with the text, speech and/or music turned off. This could be a useful option if you wish to explore the way each element impacts on the telling of the story. The teacher's support notes are particularly good and suggest ways you could invite a wider range of responses, using prompts for speaking, drama, reading and writing. Similarly, the very nature of the stories invites further research and the use of each story’s assets (the still images and sounds) encourages students to create their own versions on screen.
'The jewel in Lifelines' crown is its extensive bank of images and sounds'
The jewel in Lifelines' crown is its extensive bank of images and sounds that students can use when creating their own digital texts. These assets are taken from each of the nine stories. The script for each story is also provided in a .pdf format so may be printed out for reference or copied into a word processor for editing.
The main menu screen provides links to a number of useful editing programs – Photo Story, Comic Life and Audacity so that they can be downloaded easily if they are not already installed. Once students have downloaded and saved files they are then able to use these or other open source programs to create their own texts. Again, the Lifelines Teacher’s Book provides guidance and teaching ideas for using the stories effectively in the classroom, along with the photocopy masters provided. There are also references to assessment foci to enable you to use the resource as part of your gathering evidence for Assessing Pupils’ Progress.
Although Lifelines provides curriculum links to upper key stage 2 literacy and key stage 3 English objectives as well as cross-curricular teaching opportunities, I doubt whether many primary schools will be prepared to fork out £200 ex VAT for the site licence. There appears to be no alternative pricing structure in place for two or more additional machines or other combinations which would attract primary schools to take up this excellent resource. The situation for secondaries however, is quite different and Lifelines does represent very good value for money – the digital assets alone are of great value.
Digital literacy is fast becoming an essential skill in our society and resources like Lifelines help prepare youngsters to interpret, understand and use digital resources effectively. In the hands of an imaginative teacher, Lifelines should prove a hugely effective tool. Recommended.
Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose 4
Ease of use 5
Value for money 4 (secondaries)
Value for money 2 (primaries)
Cross-curricular, whole-class software resource made up of a collection of nine global multimedia stories for key stages 2 and 3, £200 ex VAT for site licence, from Rising Stars UK Ltd, PO Box 105, Rochester, Kent ME2 4BE.
Tel: 0800 091 1602
Fax: 0800 091 1603