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lucky to get Simon Gurr (http://www.sim and CompleteControl
who made our ideas for the games work.
How did you go about designing spe-
cific educational games?
One of our major objectives was to
create games that are not all question and
answer based. Children are not stupid
they can see education coming a mile
away! While it is true that these Q&A
games make evaluation of learning much
easier, they just aren't as much fun and, due
to their perceived educational content, may
not be as popular.
Once our research had been completed
we prepared a list of possible games, just
ideas, rough storyboards that could hope-
fully be made a reality.The game ideas
were based on information held on the
site, topics that would be appropriate to
the National Curriculum, a certain level of
game playing familiarity and, most impor-
tantly, a learning objective, be it informa-
tion, a skill or a greater understanding of
scientific principle.
Were there any problems or obstacles
that hindered the design and imple-
mentation of the games?
Thankfully no! We had very clear ideas
about what we wanted and both Simon
and CompleteControl worked very closely
with us, discussing every stage of develop-
ment so it was an amazingly painless
Naturally, the accuracy of the infor-
mation presented is critical to an
educational game. How was it decid-
ed what information to include in the
games and how did you handle pre-
senting information in a way suitable
for children without `dumbing it
down' or risking its accuracy?
Obviously, as the educational aspects of
the games were as important to us as the
fun of playing the game, they had to be
is a great deal within the National
Curriculum at that particular Key Stage
that concerns living things. I thought it
was very important that the children
should have their own Website, with its
own identity and a separate URL.
Children like to have ownership of sites;
they like to see that it has been created
especially for them and no one else.
That meant that we also had to have a sep-
arate site for educating adults.We started
from scratch, devising a plan for the two
education sites listing the aims, objectives
and content and I was responsible for
delivering those sites in time for launch
in May 2003.
We don't like to think of ARKive
Education as purely for teachers; it is for
any adult who wishes to use the sites with
children teachers, parents and specialist
education officers such as those in zoos,
wildlife parks or natural history museums.
By having two separate sites our job was
made a great deal easier in terms of design
and content; we did not have to make any
of the sites appeal to a wide audience, they
could all be specifically targeted.
Why did you decide to use games to
facilitate learning?
Jo and I are trained teachers and we
both know the value of play as a learning
medium. Also, we spent weeks looking at
the variety of sites aimed at children on
the Web and they all utilised games
although some were much better than
others.We were very conscious that the
games we created had to have learning
outcomes; we did not want to have gaming
for the sake of gaming. No matter how
`soft' the educational objective, it had to be
there. It was therefore extremely important
for us to find the right programmers to
help us to create the games and we were
lanet ARKive (http://www.plane and ARKive Education
are specialised sections of ARKive's Website
for learning and teaching. Daisy Abbott
spoke to Karen McDonnell, ARKive's
Senior Education Officer
, about using
games as an educational tool.
How did you become involved in the
ARKive project?
I trained as a teacher and worked in pri-
mary, secondary and special schools before
leaving teaching to work as an Assistant
Education Officer at Jersey Zoo where my
love of wildlife and passion for conserva-
tion combined with teaching could be
thoroughly indulged.This led to several
years in lecturing on zoo education and
devising education programmes for various
zoos and wildlife sanctuaries before taking
up the post of Senior Education Officer
for the ARKive project. It was (and is) my
job, along with my colleague Jo Canning,
to devise a way of taking the information
and media created for the main ARKive
site and `repurposing it' for a different
The information presented on the
ARKive Website is layered to better
suit different users. Were the ARKive
education facilities (aimed at teach-
ers) and Planet ARKive planned
from the beginning, or did they
evolve later in the project?
From the very beginning ARKive was
going to have an education remit and edu-
cation was an important part of our fund-
ing bids. Before I joined the project, it had
been decided that the initial focus would
be on Key Stage 2 primary pupils.The rea-
son for this was that children aged 7 to 11
have an innate interest in wildlife and there