Will Ross looks at this new website from a secondary school’s perspective.
This is a thorough resource on the justice system with a wide range of web-based activities and useful lesson ideas. It is not a one-stop-shop in terms of just leaving students to work through the units. However it is not designed to be used like this and If a teacher is willing to put in the time to work out what they want their students to learn and go through the teachers’ notes to support the web-based activities using this resource will be rewarding in terms learning and engagement of students.
Graphics and layout
The graphics on the whole are good. The cartoons are not too immature for older students but would still appeal to younger students. The use of the map seems a bit of a needless distraction as it adds little to the navigation and the moveable map in the circle at the bottom right corner of each activity seems to serve no purpose at all.
The layout is “busy” but clear. Occasionally during the activities it is difficult to locate what to do next in terms where the appropriate button is.
I think sight-impaired students would struggle with the size of the text and the intricacy of some of the drawings. However by providing the audio of the written elements it goes someway to combat this.
In terms of suitability for different age groups, I think this depends on how you choose to use it. Some Key Stage 3 students would struggle with the amount of text and written sections required with some activities. However if a teacher were to use this as a stimulus using the IWB it would be manageable.
Key Stage 4 students could to some degree be left to work independently with the activities. The print option also provides an opportunity to produce evidence of their learning. This is more valuable than the multiple choice assessments at the end of each section. These may be enjoyable for students but simply test on facts rather than learning across the unit.
Differentiation is mentioned in the “How to use this resource” section but this is a bullet pointed list of strategies that most teachers are well aware of.
The resources for 7 to 11 year olds could be used for more independent work with KS3 students and with those with special education needs in a more directed manner. This is due to less text and simpler interactive activities. However the topics are sometimes clearly for younger students making this troublesome, such as coming up with rules for your primary school.
In terms of meeting National Curriculum requirements for Citizenship, the web-based activities clearly meet some range and content in terms of legal rights and the justice system. It still requires the skill of the teacher to make sure they deal with the concepts and processes. The discussion, role plays and extension activities in the teacher notes give a useful steer for this. In terms of the National Curriculum links given within the teachers’ notes sections, I find some of these are not entirely accurate missing off some of the processes being used for activities.
The teachers’ notes contain a useful background information section with key terms and some links. The glossary pages are inexplicably numbered rather than alphabetised making navigation needlessly tricky. However within the text in the students’ activities any key words are underlined and when clicked give a succinct definition.
The useful links and resources section is fantastic covering a range of topics and containing some very good resources. Quite often links pages on education websites simply have every link and resource available with no quality assurance whereas there seems to have been a lot of care taken here.
The “How to use this resource” section is 6 web-pages and would be more palatable as a 1 or 2 page download. I initially did not realise there were 5 further pages resulting in me blindly struggling with the notes on the activities at first. My main concern with the resource as a whole in that it is just so big, though the designers have done their best to help with this by providing clear objectives for each section and easily navigable activities.
If teachers take the time to decide which sections are appropriate for their students, breaking up the web-based activities with the discussions and role plays, they will find this a fine and useful resource.
Will Ross is the Association of Citizenship Teachers’ Citizenship CPD Project Manager and Consultant.
See also Beatriz Lopez Tienza' review of the YJYW website from a primary/elementary perspective.
These articles first appeared in the newsletter, Computers in Classrooms.