The police are in school, the Head’s bank account has been emptied and only the children can help. It must be… Manhunt.

“An amazing session that the children will remember for a very long term.” 

“Very powerful! The children were 100% engaged from start to finish.”

“I was sad when it finished. I wanted to keep on investigating.”

Probably not feedback you would expect from teachers and pupils after an internet safety session but pupils all over the country are enjoying learning how to stay safe online in a rather unconventional fashion. 

Pupils arrive in class for their eSafety day delivered by their special guest, PC Thomas. During the introduction however the session comes alive as PC Thomas’s radio crackles to life with information regarding a member of the local community who has become the victim of identity theft. It transpires that this individual is the school’s headteacher and throughout the day children must evaluate all kinds of digital evidence to track the criminal and identify the many ways in which online security could have been improved.

Manhunt is the brainchild of Simon Sloan (Operations Manager at hi-impact consultancy) who is no stranger to engaging children with technology. Other similar projects projects have included ‘Alien Invasion’ a whole-school creative writing opportunity where children discover footage showing their school has been ‘visited’ and ‘Space Balloon’ where pupils send science experiments 20 miles above Earth, capturing stunning images of Deep Space and breathtaking footage of our planet.

“At hi-impact we always try to find ways to really enrich learning with innovative technologies. From 3D printers to green screen filming and from assemblies led by robots to designing an App, technology really engages the kids and the results speak for themselves.”

Simon explained that the real success behind Manhunt is the fact that it does not require any complicated or expensive technology and that, with a little imagination and creativity, teachers can deliver this project themselves.

The technologies in Manhunt are freely available and include audio editing software Audacity, Excel Spreadsheets, cleverly doctored bank statements, witness accounts, a fake twitter profile, images from Google Earth and of course someone who can pretend to be a police officer. Pupils work their way through key digital evidence and soon realise how irresponsible their headteacher has been. How could they carelessly leave their password on a Post-it note by their computer? Why have they shared their security information so publicly? Haven’t they heard of privacy settings? Is that really the kind of information to share online?

Paul Bradshaw, who is Senior School Improvement Officer for Liverpool, watched Manhunt unfold and was stunned as pupils fell for the story and embraced the narrative 100%. Paul remarked: “This has been one of the most powerful online safety sessions I have ever seen. Really engaging and inspirational.”

It is equally exciting to see that whilst the integration of technology certainly brings the subject matter to life, once the children have a deadline to solve the case, the technology becomes an essential tool. Filtering data in a spreadsheet is exciting as the criminal’s identity becomes clearer and being able to manipulate audio and analyse aerial images from the police helicopter (well… Google Earth) gives real purpose to the tech.

As parents and educators embrace technology to engage children, enrich teaching and enable more efficient learning, there has never been a better time to ensure that pupils appreciate the importance of online safety. Projects such as Manhunt breathe life and excitement into what can be a dry topic full of doom and gloom and give an experience that will be remembered forever.

Written by Alan Thompson, Managing Director, hi-impact