CHILDREN went back to the future in a new hi-tech lesson.
The nine to 11-year-olds from Hudson Road Primary School, in Hendon, stepped into a virtual world to learn more about their heritage and culture with the help of Sunderland University.
The pupils were invited to take part in an Ecute (Education in Cultural Understanding Technology Enhanced) workshop using technology developed by researchers.
The three-year project aims to increase young people’s awareness about culture using graphical characters that can display different types of cultural behaviours in virtual environments.
The workshop – held in partnership with Janette Hilton, project director at Living History North East – took place at Holy Trinity Church and Donnison School, Church Walk, in the East End of the city.
Ecute is developing software to help children understand and appreciate culture so they can deal with new situations.
As part of the activities, the pupils were asked to develop stories for a prototype software product called Mixer, based on the game of hide and seek, which explores cultural conflicts in a comic book format.
At the end of the workshop, the children explained their game ideas to the class and were presented by authors David Simpson and Richard Callgahan with a copy of their new book My Sunderland, a collection of stories, tales and anecdotes inspired by Black Cats’ chairman Niall Quinn.
Dr Susan Jones, senior lecturer in digital media, said: “What pulls all this together is heritage and culture, alongside storytelling and narrative. My Sunderland book is all about the history of Sunderland.
“We have worked with Hudson Primary pupils before and they are always full of fantastic ideas. Their class teacher told me they very much enjoyed the experience.
Ms Hilton said: “This has been an exciting partnership. The experience provided these young children with an engaging, interactive and creative experience.
“The project established that there is a positive and productive link between technology, culture, identity and heritage.”
The university is among eight research partners involved in Ecute, along with academic institutions in Portugal, Germany, the Netherlands and Japan.
Sunderland’s role is to evaluate the success of the applications developed in the project
Dr Lynne Hall, who is leading the university’s team of computer experts, said: “This is an incredibly prestigious project which will have real world impact.
“We anticipate significant benefits for the games sector and for cultural learning.
“We will be looking at Ecute’s user-experience evaluation, it’s an area where Sunderland is incredibly strong and has proven experience in assessing computing projects of this scale.