I am Chris: Life on line

Are any Bookfutures readers old enough to remember Jackdaw folders? These were assemblages of facsimile historical documents published loose leaf and sold through bookshops to children and their educationally minded parents. I don't remember learning anything specific about history via this means, but I was dead jealous of my friends whose pushy parents had bought them such educational delights; just unfolding these olde documents made me feel thrillingly in touch with history.

I was reminded of Jackdaws by LIFELINES, the digital resources for schools made by the wonderful Kate Pullinger and Chris Joseph, pioneers of digital literature and creators of the award winning Inanimate Alice and a fantastic 'litch bit' in their distinctive multimedia style for if:book's own futurewriting resource for school, HOTBOOK.

Lifelines consists of a CD ROM containing nine short first person narratives told in the voice of young people from different parts of the world and moments in history.

Text, sounds and images can be played on whiteboard or computer,story each story comes with a collection of video clips and and stills which can be plundered to create new media responses. This mini-archive gives schools, so scared to allow access to the great unruly free library of the Internet, with a controlled and vetted selection of bits to cut and paste and remix with.

Whereas once school kids thrilled to computer stuff at school they couldn't get at home, now it's hard to imagine any child being too blown way by this collection in comparison with the wonders and horrors most can download from home, but it does allow schools to help young people explore the fantastic possibilities for multimedia transliterature and reflect on the issues involved in making and remixing user generated content.

And by the power of cut and paste from the publisher's website I bring you the full list of stories:

. 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

Stories with link 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 narratives are strong and well voiced, the personalities strong and the original material impressive. Not surprisingly for an educational resource, the whole package feels a bit old fashioned in a good, worthy way. These are the digital offspring of Ladybird books, not the siblings of fan fiction and avant garde cut ups. I can imagine teachers liking these a lot, finding them reassuringly familiar, and that's wonderful as schools still need coaxing to embrace new media means of telling stories, and more importantly to reflect with their students on how our culture is being transformed as it moves from printed page to networked screen.
I liked the story set in techno Tokyo for busting out of the safety zone, but the historic yarns of blitz and battles are dead good too. The teachers' notes which accompany the disc are as thorough as these things need to be to help teachers plan their lessons in relation to curriculum targets etc.

So teachers, buy LIFELINES but don't forget also to check out what if:book also does in this area by logging onto www.ifsoflo.ning.com, then, when your LIFELINES disc and pack arrives, follow the easy to follow step on the Rising Stars website...

Step 1: Use as an attention-grabbing hook to immediately engage pupils as they enter the classroom and settle. 

Step 2: Play the whole story through, or alternatively view screen-by-screen, stopping between them for discussion. 

Step 3: Invite a wider range of responses using prompts in the teacher's support notes for speaking, drama, reading and writing.

Step 4: Encourage further research and use the pictures and sounds to encourage students to create their own versions on screen.


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