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our recommendations

To build a successful and engaging GridClub for this age group will be expensive, but worthwhile. Enough is known from existing and past project to build a highly successful project.

There are some tough choices: firstly, a GridClub will need a measure, or measures, of success. Selecting these will colour and guide implementation. It is clear from all the evidence that nothing succeeds unless it is carefully piloted in a way that makes the early iterative stages (but not the whole project) look very expensive indeed. This means that our first clear recommendation is for a long term project funded for five years in the first instance.

The second set of choices evolve around the portfolio of possibilities outlined in our preamble (see above). There is a complex choice here between the safety of an umambitious site and the impact of an ambitious one. A further key consideration is the number and increasing proliferation of projects for young children - the competition is rapidly growing. We reject the more passive Publish and disseminate only site or the Limited contribution site simply because we don't think they will be seductive enough to attract large numbers of children and because there is already so much available for this age group. This leads us to either the Post moderated site or the Tool based open contribution site, ideally the latter, both of which are ambitious and expensive but which would measure up to the current Standards agenda and make a contribution in advancing that agenda.

Our second clear recommendation
is for an active contributory, participative project with individual identities for contributors. The project website will be a database driven, thin client site fully adhering to the interface guidelines contained in this report including epecially multiple media and some model of redundancy.

How that more active site is achieved however is more complex. We think there are four possibilities:

  • Build it from scratch using the considerable body of advice that this research has been able to tap. This would be expensive and high risk (failure would be calamitous) but probably worth the risk.
  • Secondly, many of the projects we identified within this area are short term. Identifying an already successful project and offering continuity and progression to both the site and the children's activity on the site would be welcomed and would avoid the high start-up costs of the first year. Changing branding and identity would be a problem, but not an insurmountable one.
  • Thirdly, identifying an existing non commercial project which would host a "GridClub" as an autonomous activity has some considerable attractions. For example the BBC might be approached.
  • Finally, there is considerable merit in a 'badging' initiative that would force a number of desirable features into the main initiatives for this age group. Those that met the full feature set would qualify for the GridClub badge.

The substantial advantage of these last two approaches is that they would allow funding to be concentrated on the crucial mediation role; in other words a full time GridClub team of active practitioners could support substantial activity and move the whole field forwards. There is clear evidence (for example from Tesco SchoolNet 2000) that such a team of practitioners in the field make a key difference in engagement, adoption and activity. All these are viable options that our research supports. These last two would certainly be the most cost effective.

Finally we saw nothing in any of our research or evidence to suggest that there was any need to age limit on-line learning activity. A 7-11 age range is useful in keeping designers focussed on the needs (and especially multiple media and minimal text needs) of this age group but there is much persuasive evidence that young children learn from, and chase, the role models of older children whilst older children reinforce their own understandings by explaining them to younger children. Our final recommendation is that GridClub, in whatever form, reflects this evidence by being targetted at 7 - 18 year olds, but with activities designed in the first instance for the 7-11 curriculum.

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