I've been wondering for a while what to do about a six-year-old who already seems dangerously close to computer-game addiction (currently in cold turkey thanks to the Wii-U not yet having been unpacked) and who has recently expressed an urgent need to watch Dr Who (way past his bedtime!).
I'd vaguely thought of trying to get him coding - he's immensely creative (aren't all six-year-olds?) and often invents games and draws the characters and writes the story-lines. It seemed but a short step from there to start him off writing his own code. But an admittedly less-than-exhaustive search had found nothing remotely suitable. Until now.
This online browser game from the BBC introduces a friendly Dalek and takes kids from age six upwards through a series of steps to get them coding. The various levels are also linked to different curriculum outcomes too so it's s triple whammy - he gets to play, learns to code and gets help with schoolwork.
This might literally have made our half-term. (It launches, via the CBBC website, this coming Wednesday.)
And they say the licence fee ain't worth the money...
(Here, for those of you wanting the official BBC lowdown, is the full text of their press release:)
Players join the action as the TARDIS materialises amidst a deadly pursuit through space – a Dalek Saucer bearing down on a Cyber-ship. But from that Cyber-ship emanates a distress call – from a Dalek! On freeing the battered Dalek from his Cybermen captors, the Doctor finds himself taking his new unlikely ally on a mission to save all of creation from destruction at the hands of his greatest enemies.
But why would a Dalek turn to its mortal foe for help? To find out, join the Doctor and the Dalek in a new adventure spanning the Sontar homeworld and its vile Clone Chambers, which have never been shown on-screen before, as well as reintroducing the icy Cyber-tombs of Telos – last seen in classic Doctor Who episodes.
The Doctor said: "Oi! Short and not-very-old one! I need your help - I’ve got a Dalek and we’ve got a mission to save the universe. So get on over to the CBBC website, and play The Doctor and the Dalek while there’s still a universe left! Come on! Chop chop! Make it Digital on the BBC."
Introducing computing skills
A range of puzzles are featured throughout the game, where players must take control of the Dalek and program it to “power up” its ability to perform a range of tasks, such as flying. Each puzzle unlocks an achievement that helps the Doctor build the Dalek back to full strength, ensuring it can take on increasingly difficult challenges as the game progresses.
The puzzles are linked to the new computing curriculum and are designed to allow children across the UK to pick up core programming principles as they play. Several key stage 2 and 3 curriculum points – such as combining instructions to accomplish a given goal, using variables to alter behaviour, repetition and loops, and logical reasoning – are seamlessly integrated into the gameplay and, most importantly for children, are intuitive and fun.
Resources accompanying the game will be available from BBC Learning at bbc.co.uk/schoolscomputing for teachers and parents to help children get the most out of the game. These will provide links to other resources available from across the BBC and third parties, enabling children and teachers to take their learning journeys further.
Danny Cohen, BBC Director of Television, said: “The Doctor and the Dalek is a brand new Doctor Who story and a fantastic game, voiced by the wonderful Peter Capaldi. It’s an excellent example of how a hugely popular BBC show can give fans something extra, whilst also introducing wider audiences to increasingly important skills, such as coding and programming.”
Sinéad Rocks, Head of BBC Learning, said: “We’re really excited about the launch of The Doctor and the Dalek as not only is it a really entertaining platform game for kids to play but it’s also a great introduction to some key principles of computer programming. Every puzzle has a strong link to the KS2 or KS3 computing curriculum. So we think it’s going to be a really valuable tool for students, parents and teachers.”
The Doctor and the Dalek was commissioned by BBC Learning, developed and produced by BBC Wales and Somethin’ Else in association with BBC Future Media.