Use and Evaluation of Journeys

An official evaluation of Journeys was carried out by Sparrowhawk and Heald. The disk was used with a group of Key Stage 3 pupils for one term. Two other evaluations have been published on TEEM web site (Teachers Evaluating Educational Multimedia). One was for a group of KS 3 pupils at Pewsey Vale School, Wiltshire, the other a group of KS3 pupils from Tideway Community College, East Sussex. In addition, there have been several reviews in the press (Times Educational Supplement, 23.3.2001; Junior Education, June 2001; Young Archaeologist 108, Summer 2001; Guardian, 11.12.01; and this issue) and numerous pieces of feedback from individual students and teachers. What follows is a synthesis of the feedback gained.

The major evaluations did not highlight any serious problems with the installation of the disk. However, there have been occasions when owners of some older or less powerful computers had some difficulty. Two centres seem to have had few problems with students grasping the basic navigational skills required to use Journeys; another school, however, recommended much teacher preparation and student support. This seems to suggest that there is a differential in ICT experience between the pupils concerned. There is no doubt that it does take a little while to familiarise oneself with the navigation around the disk and activities, but it does seem that most master it with practice.

Some teachers would have liked to use the disk in an ICT suite and this would be its ideal environment (and additional CD-Roms are available at a much reduced rate if networking was not possible). Overall, a single disk does not really enable full engagement with an entire class, although this could be overcome with the use of an interactive whiteboard. Journeys has lent itself to individual and group work in and out of class time. Two centres had pupils begging to play the disk over their lunch-break! This does provide powerful evidence for the power of this product to enthuse, possibly in a way that books often cannot.

The quality of information was noted on several occasions, and it is clear that Journeys provides material that is not readily available elsewhere. This is gratifying, but not entirely unexpected. I wanted to break the moulds of traditional textbooks which tend to repackage the same material over and over again. The time line has also proved popular and the timespan covered by the four journeys was intended to provide a chronological sequence that could aid understanding of the Roman Period (and it was noted that this met Level 4 targets on change for Key Stage 3 History). The wide range of source material available also helped students with Level 4 and 5 targets about the selection and evaluation of sources. Finally, the most able students were able to maintain and develop an argument through historical enquiry which reaches Level 6.

One centre noted that for Educational Special Needs purposes, Journeys would be useful for stretching the more academic pupils. As another centre succinctly wrote that "not all journeys are equal in terms of their content/fun." The Merchant's Tale was by far the most popular, followed by The Mystery of Regina and Barates. Both of these are highly interactive and have a strong story-line. Hadrian is probably rather too complex and less interactive, although it does provide the widest sweep of the Roman Empire. Melania is a good story, but is barely interactive. In production, we did think that perhaps we should have just enlarged The Merchant's Tale and remove the other journeys altogether. However, Journeys was intended to present a broad picture of the Roman Empire and this has been appreciated in the evaluations. One centre used the disk to quarry information for projects on Roman religion and another noted how Journeys reinforced students' knowledge of Roman coinage, names, religious concepts, geographical places, and how it even helped a little with Mathematics and ICT.

So far the school evaluations have been positive and any criticisms do seem reasonable, and have not highlighted serious areas for concern. It is only when reading how the disk has made a positive impact with children that I began to feel that the experience had been worth it.

Whether the CD-Rom format is suited for the future is not certain and it does seem that websites are beginning to provide the focus for ICT learning. The power of the web in museum circles has been noted for several years (NMDC 1999) The British Museum is now concentrating on its Compass site and has already produced two in a series of websites on ancient cultures for children ( and These do reach a much wider audience, and it has to be admitted that the marketing of Journeys and CD-Roms in general has been problematical. I would like to see Journeys modified for use on the web at the earliest possible opportunity.

National Museums Directors' Conference (NMDC) 1999 A Netful of Jewels: New Museums in the Learning Age Victoria and Albert Museum. PDF Report available online at:


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Last updated: Thu Aug 1 2002