S leuth IT was born from two education concepts; devising a project to inspire boys to enjoy literacy work, developing better reading and understanding skills and the use of iBeacons to create location based content to appear in student devices.

Beacons simply trigger content to appear in your device when you are close to them and the idea of triggering content in student devices intrigued me for several reasons:  displays in schools are essentially passive areas. You choose to go to them and engage with the content, and after a period of time they are ignored. Updating them is usually a fairly large undertaking to ‘re-do’ the display area. Beacons are pushing content to appear, like a text message alert, in a device. You can even trigger a text message to appear to alert a student they have entered a specific location or zone. From that point you can make a range of content and variety of experience available for the student to explore – a mixture of pushing content to them and elements of flipped learning, differentiated resource and student initiated experience.

Any content for any location can be easily updated, a whole project or a single element, so the potential of beacons as learning tools was very apparent and exciting.

Gamification is well documented for its positive influence on encouraging and engaging students in the learning process and the combination of all of these elements suggested the ‘whodunnit’ angle to the experience, everyone thinks or likes to think that they can be as smart as Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirrot. Treasure trails and physical activities go hand in hand with breaking down the traditional walls of the classroom and the idea of creating a simple case with beacons spread throughout the school was developed.

Given that students live in a world of high quality media, HD screens, YouTube clips and high quality games the following points soon became apparent:

  • High quality images or videos to be used at all times
  • A range of media for the case: text, images, video, 360 degree panoramic videos and interactive widgets. The latter was inspired by wanting to avoid simple presenting students with a consumer experience, ie watching a series of videos to gain information. Watching is to an extent a passive experience, creating bespoke interactive widgets such as tapping in a combination on a padlock to enter a password that you’ve worked out is for more exciting than watching an avatar have all the fun! Turning the dial on a 1960s phone to make a phone call with a phone number you found pieced together from several scraps of paper is far more stimulating (and rewarding) than tapping on an audio file play button!

I’ve always believed that range of stimuli
should be used in any and every lesson,
digital, analogue and a host of media
– a strategy recently labelled ‘blended learning’

The last element of the cases we settled on was probably the most important. From the simple beta test case we developed it soon became apparent that the storyline was absolutely crucial to the project’s development.  Regardless of the quality and range of content provided, every case needs a convincing, well developed plot line to pull everything together.

The case has to be plausible and logical. Clues and the solutions to challenging puzzles must be plausible and manageable. Everyone remembers and enjoys a good plot to a film – that’s what makes it work. However, there was an additional element to be managed. If a case is played in one go, with all six beacons deployed around the event this means that those engaged in the case can move between any of the beacons at any time, in any order.

A book or movie story line is linear, the author controls the pace and release of information to the reader (Unless you cheat and skip to the last few pages to find out ‘the butler did it’. So, the storylines of Sleuth IT cases are actually non-linear, requiring the skill of managing all of the evidence so that no single location gives the game away, all the locations must be visited, the evidence amassed, cogitated, weighed and pieced together –  just like a real case.

Lastly, solving the case must be logical and rewarding – no one likes to feel cheated by a crucial evidence appearing in an illogical manner or in a way that realistically could not have been discovered by deduction.

Our focus is on the Education sector

Sleuth IT cases have been used at Year 6 induction days for prospective secondary schools, part of schemes of work within a school curriculum, holiday camps, parents evenings, corporate business team building days and as social events, all with the same exciting response – people like to try their hand at being Sherlock Holmes!

Sleuth IT is now focused on the Education sector and has produced an exciting roster of 10 titles from Ancient Egyptians to Sci Fi adventures that will be expanded even further in 2019.