Ask a child why they want a computer or tablet, and the more savvy may respond with the qualifier: “but, it’s not just for games--you can play educational games on it too!”
Gameplay is a primary draw for kids to become interested in technology. Discussions soon bubble up assessing the value of “educational software.” Whether a clear line of demarcation between “game” and “education” has been established, as with many things, from exercise to investing money, variety and moderation seems to prove most effective. The fear of turning over a classroom of children to a sea of iPads is not as Orwellian an anxiety as it once was.
“No one is suggesting that we replace teachers with iPads,” says Victor Vrantchan, a technology support specialist at Whitby. “There is a level of autonomy when a student can work on their own with an iPad--and the ability to ‘fail’ or come up with the wrong answer in a private way. With this type of game, wrong answers don’t involve walking up to the teacher for confirmation of the error. These types of games encourage trial and error, until, there is success that eventually leads to more deeper learning."
The use of technology appeals to the learning styles of some students, exposing them toall of these different learning styles allows children and teachers to learn about themselves and make choices based on these experiences and for choices in the future.The lesson Vrantchan spoke about was on telling time, to the hour, to the half hour.Those two components were being taught using a three-tiered approach: Written (the worksheet), Physical (actual clocks manipulated by the students) and an iPad application—a game, called “Todo Time.” The students spent equal time at each learning station. Vrantchan noticed that some students were making gains on the iPad game, but lost that progress when they returned to the worksheet. The progress was displayed in the student’s ability to take “telling time” beyond the hour and half-hour lesson, further extending their lesson, in some cases, to the minute.
Lower School teachers, Jenna Fox and Melissa Holmes can see the positive influence of these resources when used in combination with other tools. “Using the iPads with some of these games are a source of enrichment,” says Fox, “it’s a deeper dive into the work--one that they all look forward to.” The idea of setting a child up at an iPad station is beneficial in other ways as well. “The child can work independently," states Holmes, "and that’s also a very valuable skill to learn.”
In the game that was used in this lesson, Todo Time, when a student gets the time wrong, they can instantly try again until they get the time correct. The game then progresses to the next level. Working independently allows a series of mini failures that result in ensuing success. The advantage to games like these is that they offer a more intimate way for children to “risk” a wrong answer.
Fox assures, “these games are used to reinforce, not replace.” The independence of these games also addresses the pacing of how a particular child comprehends a concept.Some children may grasp it earlier and “this gives them the ability to go on to the next level, while other children may need a little more time,” says Fox, “using whatever helps them to explore the exercise.
”From the example of the telling-time lesson plan, the iPad presents an interesting blend of both the manipulative dimension (dragging numbers across the screen) and comprehension element (reading and processing the questions and answers.)
Going forward, the Lower Education classes are continuing their exploration of different mediums of expression through a variety of learning engagements: sculpting,Scratch jr. (programming), Dance and Movement, and Painting.
At Whitby, the mission to find which learning style complements and challenges each child is approached from various resources—and this search to find and further a child’s educational journey is the Whitby mission in action.