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Dolphin System

  1. Published by Dolphin Learning

  2. KS 1-2 (Years 1-6)

  3. ICT

KS2 Content Evaluation by Martin Smith

The Dolphin System website offers a peer-to-peer learning system for Key Stage 1 and 2 pupils. The system evolved from the solution of a school in Berkshire for improving the basic ICT skills of pupils. The website, which any school can subscribe to, provides a series of exercises in which the teacher trains up ‘tutors’ in the relevant skills and the tutors then disseminate information to their peers. The idea is that teacher-led time on the computers is used more in applying these skills in other subjects than learning the subjects themselves. The process is evaluated by the pupils throughout, both in terms of the understanding of ICT skills and quality of peer tutoring. Through completing the exercises pupils move up the ‘Ladder of Success’ to increasingly more challenging ones. The exercises cover most areas of the ICT Programme of Study, and the impression is that the website is being added to and improved all the time. The software, which is supported through the Help system, is usually standard Microsoft products, although the author states that Help will be added for other software if requested by subscribers.

Supporting Documentation
The website remembers the user which saves any need for pupils to learn passwords and logon names, etc. Each exercise has teacher’s notes showing which aspects of the National Curriculum and QCA units it applies to. It also shows how progression is made in later units further up the Ladder of Success. Some exercises require that work away from the computer is done beforehand.

Technical Support
Some technical support is provided on the website although this is minimal, and the majority of support will be gained by contacting the author via email.

Curriculum Relevance

Purpose of the Program
The website is designed to provide the pupils with a peer-to-peer ICT skills learning system, so that the teacher is able to concentrate more on the use of ICT within other subjects rather than spend time in ICT lessons dealing with basic skills. By training a team of pupils to be ‘tutors’, teachers can effectively teach ICT to pupils of varying abilities.

Curriculum Relevance
The author of the Dolphin System claims that ‘The Dolphin System is designed to train all pupils to be confident, independent computer users’ and this is certainly the case. Through using the exercises along the Ladder of Success the pupils would cover many of the QCA units and National Curriculum topics within ICT.

The website is expanding and the online system evolving, therefore the depth of content will presumably increase as time passes. At the time of writing, the ‘Exchanging and Sharing Information’ and ‘Finding Things Out’ aspects of ICT are well covered at the lower end of Key Stage 2 in terms of QCA units (with the upper end in the pipeline). The ‘Developing Ideas and Making Things Happen’ does not at present contain any monitoring or simulation. Modelling is covered quite well.

Analysis of Contents

It is clear that the website has been designed and thoroughly tested for pupils. It is clear, friendly and consistent throughout in terms of layout. The skills learned through the exercises are relevant and suitably paced in terms of stages within an exercise. Vocabulary is well chosen, using keywords that are subject related. The style in which the pupils learn reflects how the tutors were taught themselves, and that is down to the teacher.

The content is acceptable throughout, with no elements of bias. Spelling is British English, and images are simple but effective. At the end of the day, the pupils will be concentrating more on the skills they are using than looking at pretty pictures which may take ages to load on a website.


The system relies on differentiation through speed of progress. The theory being that the more able become tutors for the less able, hence refining their understanding through sharing their knowledge and seeing how others learn. The skills themselves are not easily differentiated, but the more able will progress more quickly than the less able.


The Dolphin System website delivers a peer-to-peer ICT skills-learning initiative that has many good aspects. The system boosts progress in ICT above and beyond normal expectations, if the school is behind it wholeheartedly. Pupils are required to take more responsibility for their learning and through using it they would gain a sense of independent learning. Teachers would also find that computers would be used to apply ICT skills in other subjects, leading to a more cross-curricular application. The online system is currently growing, and if completed, this website has the potential to make time spent on computers in schools much more worthwhile. This website may not suit your school, but on the other hand, it may be just the ticket.

KS2 Classroom Evaluation by Keith Monteiro

Installation & Access

Initial access to the website on networked workstations required the licence code and password. Subsequent attempts to access the site on the same workstation did not require the licence code and password to be re-entred. Standard BGfL plug-ins were available.

Planning Classroom Use

What This Product Offers
The Dolphin System is a unique ICT resource. The extent is such that even during this evaluation the possibilities have only been glimpsed at. The content is highly structured and welcoming, inviting children to use it. Progression is built in as is differentiation in terms of speed of progress and level of support required. The peer tutoring model offers a potentially vast return in terms of personal and social development as well as huge benefits in terms of enhanced motivation and the facilitation of a more analytical approach to learning.

The Dolphin System requires the teacher to instruct a group of children – the tutors – who practise the skills taught before instructing a deputy tutor each. The pair of them then instruct the rest of their 'Learning Team'. The initial small group input gives the teacher the opportunity to devote more time and attention to the focus group. The tutors realised they had a special role and were more attentive than usual.

Opportunities when using this software include the chance to use Windows in a multi-tasking environment, the facilitation of independent learning and the chance to use the system to teach adults.

Purpose of Using This Product
The Dolphin System is a highly unusual ICT resource. There is a very definite need for well-trained 'tutors' who are taught by the teacher and then pass on their skills by teaching the other children. The children need to become familiar with the system so that they can navigate the website confidently.

The purpose of the program is for pupils to use the ICT skills taught by the tutors – their peers – to learn about Paint programs, text boxes, files, clipart, importing pictures, branching databases and a plethora of other activities and functions using ICT to create pictures and documents with photographs, pictures, graphs and clipart.

Special Educational Needs children were not included in the group that did most work with Dolphin. However, it could be seen that the system would allow for more support for the less able, allowing these children to progress at their own pace. The activities are offered on two levels, Infant and Junior. The use of recorded instructions in some of the earlier Junior modules will significantly help Special Educational Needs children.

Classroom Experience

Classroom Organisation
Several lunchtime sessions were used with the children in the computer club, which helped to ensure access to the website across the machines in the ICT suite. Once access was obtained, the children attempted to help with the evaluation. These were not the recommended more able children and progress was unsatisfactory.

Following this, a group of five higher-ability Year 4 children were selected to assist with the evaluation. We went through the first section in the 'Creating Pictures' unit of work on Step 1 of the 'Ladder of Success'. The children spent the next session consolidating what had been covered in the first session before teaching a new group of five deputy tutors. The tutors and deputy tutors had another session for consolidation purposes. In the final session, the tutors and deputy tutors were responsible for teaching a Learning Team which included three other children from the (streamed, upper-ability) language group. The tutors also spent another lesson introducing the site to a class of Year 2 children.

The work done during each session was evaluated at the end. Whilst training the tutors and deputy tutors, the children had the use of a workstation each. During the whole-group sessions, pairs of children worked on a workstation. Other groups of tutors were trained from Year 5 and Year 6. Training sessions were performed at lunchtimes but the two whole-class teaching lessons were done during class time.

Context of Use
The effective use of this software requires children, as well as well-trained tutors, to be familiar with the site. Individuals to be trained initially were identified and asked to help with the evaluation. The author's recommendation to use the 'Creating Pictures' module on Step 1 of the Ladder of Success was found satisfactory for the purpose. The chosen students were then trained over four sessions before the class/group were introduced to the software. At the end of each session an evaluation helped to clarify learning gained with Dolphin. Having trained the tutors and allowed the children to become familiar with the site, it was decided to use the 'Know your Computer' module from Step 2 to allow the children to contribute to devising a set of Care and Safety rules for using the computer room.

The Dolphin experience was a standalone one initially, but has great potential for follow-up work in both ICT as well as in the area of Personal and Social Education.

Ease of Use - Design & Navigation
Following an introductory session, the childen were largely able to proceed with their work with only occasional appeals for help. The rigid structure of the website allows the children to gain familarity with the site quickly and the use of peer tutors ensures the teacher is not the first port of call if an issue arises.

Children can move about the site very easily, quickly grasping the importance of the steps on the Ladder of Success and the associated modules of work and activities on each step. Each module is composed of a number of tasks, and each task is broken down into a set of skills. The icons are backed up by text messages and are large and easily selected. Moving about the site seems a tiny bit slow, possibly because we need broadband techonology.

The software is highly supportive with a detailed and highly recommended tutorial for children new to Dolphin. Access to the content is highly structured, creating a safe and familiar environment.

The onscreen Help is a crucial aspect of the peer tutoring and self-assesment offered by the system. It focuses on developing skills through instruction and often offers more than one method to achieve an objective.

Monitoring & Assessment
Monitoring and assessment of children's learning relies on self-assessment and the completion of 'I can...' sheets which can be downloaded and made into a booklet. There are occasional tests for the children to attempt and print off for the teacher's use.

Once the tutors were learning the skills or teaching their peers, there was little need for teacher intervention. The children generally asked for help as necessary, allowing for observation and evaluation of learning by the teacher. The structure for the children's learning is built into the Dolphin System.

Although not used in this evaluation, when allocated a class, an individual's work can be monitored by the website. This should enable progress of the class as well as the individual to be monitored, although there are security issues regarding individual children yet to be resolved.

Feedback from Pupils and Other Staff
The children generally responded very positively to the system, frequently requesting more sessions on the computers. The children were offered the opportunity to contribute their opinions regarding the usefulness of the system in developing their learning.

Comments included:

'It was good because you learned things like Edit to undo things.''We didn't know how to switch between windows and they were helping us to get where we wanted to.''On Dolphin they show you things. The teacher talks to you and you understand more.'

The evaluator learned how to use 'Control A' to "Select All" thanks to Dolphin!


Ease of Use
The site is easy to log onto and well structured, with large, easily identifiable icons. The pages share a basic design, with the content varying from page to page. This allows the children to easily recognise their environment and move about the site with confidence. There is not too much content on the pages and a limited number of links, minimising confusion.

Classroom Experience
The tutors and deputy-tutors were very enthusiastic about using Dolphin, always asking when the next session was, as if we could abandon the rest of the Curriculum! During the whole-class sessions, which were used to learn or refine ICT skills, the class seemed more self-reliant, allowing teachers time to evaluate children's learning. The rules the children devised gave useful insights into the level of their thinking as well as highlighting particular strengths and weaknesses in their understanding of technical aspects of the computer.