Digital Technologies Week 10 – Games-Based Learning 2

This week in Digital Technologies we hosted a group of primary six students from a nearby school. They had collaborated to create the village of Hogsmeade from Harry Potter in Minecraft and brought in their iPads to show us their work and teach us how to use Minecraft. I had used Minecraft previously but it was an enjoyable and interesting experience to see how the students used it as part of their learning.

An OFCOM Report (2011) showed that 85% of 5-7 year olds and 90% of 9-11 year olds regularly use a gaming device. It follows logically that the majority of students in a primary classroom will feel quite comfortable using games, and therefore that they could be a valuable resource if used correctly to support a lesson.

Bray (2012) says that games-based learning has the most transformational impact when it is combined with good learning and teaching. To me the digital leaders programme in the primary school that visited us supports this by taking the students with the most enthusiasm for technology and allowing them to bring their experience into the classroom to assist both their peers and their teacher. Bray (2012) also says that games should not just be a reward or entertainment. It was interesting to see the students using Minecraft in a practical way, by creating their own model of the village of Hogsmeade to support their class novel. This further helped with the development of ‘soft skills’ such as teamwork and collaboration that was evident when we looked at how the Nintendo Wii could be used in the classroom. In pairs, on one server, the students had to create a shop from the village of Hogsmeade aided by their reading of the novels in class, thus supporting their literacy lessons and encouraging them to work together.

Beauchamp (2012, p.9) says that it is important when using games in the classroom to make it clear the way in which we want the games to be used and I think that the activity of building Hogsmeade within Minecraft was an excellent way to achieve this. By the end of the input, it seemed clear that the students had enjoyed showing adults with minimal experience how to use Minecraft. The digital leader system implemented in the school who visited us seems to be a very useful way to teach collaborative learning skills which will serve students well in academia and beyond.

References

Beauchamp, G. (2012). ICT in the Primary School: From Pedagogy to Practice. Harlow: Pearson. p.9.

Bray, O. (2012) Playful Learning: Computer Games in Education. [Online] Available: https://www.slideshare.net/Microsofteduk/playful-learning-computer-games-in-education [Accessed 9 Apr 2018].

OFCOM (2011). Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes. [Online] Available: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0030/55479/children_and_parents.pdf [Accessed 9 Apr 2018].

Digital Technologies Week 11 – Digital Technology Enhancing Outdoor Learning

In this input of Digital Technologies, we examined how technology could be used to enhance and compliment outdoor learning through two useful apps; “Pic Collage” and “QR reader”. Through research and reflection, I have concluded that technology can help teachers structure outdoor lessons in a way allows children to explore important parts of the curriculum in a more exciting, accessible and relevant way whilst providing context and experience that may be difficult to create in a classroom setting.

The “Pic Collage” app mentioned above allows users to take and edit photographs in a variety of different styles as well to structure albums of photographs – constructing a timeline of events with captions and descriptions. In outdoor learning pupils could be encouraged to take pictures of, for example, local wild life and structure an album which demonstrates their understanding in a creative and sophisticated way. If the pupils were divided into groups creation of the albums could be a team activity which encourages the development of many additional ‘soft skills’. An interdisciplinary task such as the example above provides many links to the curriculum such as:

  • “I can explore and experiment with digital technologies and can use what I learn to support and enhance my learning in different contexts.” – (TCH 1-01a).
  • “I am learning to use language and style in a way which engages and/or influences my reader.” – (ENG 2-27a).
  • “I can extend and enhance my knowledge of digital technologies to collect, analyse ideas, relevant information and organise these in an appropriate way.” – (TCH 2-01a).
  • “I have the opportunity to choose and explore an extended range of media and technologies to create images and objects, comparing and combining them for specific tasks.” – (EXA 2-02a).
  • “I can create and present work that shows developing skill in using the visual elements and concepts.” – (EXA 2-03a).

The other app, “QR reader”, is an app designed to be used with QR codes which are essentially a more complex bar code that can store a significant amount of useful information. When scanned a QR code almost instantaneously grants access to appropriate information either stored in the code or from the internet and as such can significantly improve the learning experience. QR codes are increasingly common and can be found in for example, museum exhibits and other places of interest providing additional information which may be too lengthy for a small display can also be created and tailored to the needs of the class which ensures that the information children receive is appropriate and at a suitable level. In outdoor learning codes such as these can be created by a teacher as a sort of ‘treasure hunt’ allowing children to explore and discover information in a seemingly organic way or perhaps on a class trip to a museum a teacher may encourage pupils to use codes presented to gather additional information. As with “Pic Collage” tasks that use “QR reader” can be linked to the curriculum in many ways;

  • “ Using digital technologies responsibly I can access, retrieve and use information to support, enrich or extend learning in different contexts.” – (TCH 1-02a).
  • “I can use digital technologies to explore how to search and find information.” -(TCH 0-02a).
  • “I can create, develop and evaluate computing solutions in response to a design challenge.” – (TCH 2-15a).

    Information retrieved from QR codes by pupils could be the basis of a diverse number of tasks which could be linked to almost every part of the curriculum.

    Whilst reflecting on the use of digital technology in outdoor learning I became aware of several issues that may arise and that should be addressed to ensure that lessons of this style are successful. Firstly, there are the obvious issues with resources – classes must have enough hardware (with access to the appropriate software) to ensure that every pupil is given the opportunity to engage in the activity. Another issue, somewhat unique to outdoor learning, is the ‘wear and tear’ of technology outdoors as in my experience technology may not withstand the elements even when care is taken. A further issue is a higher risk to the children as it is more difficult to monitor the behaviour, participation and safety of pupils if they are outdoors especially if the task calls for them to be divided. However, in the “Curriculum for Excellence Through Outdoor Learning” document there is special consideration made in stating that outdoor learning can help children gain valuable “skills to assess and manage risk when making decisions,” (Scottish Executive, 2004) and perhaps this is an opportunity for teachers to share their concerns with pupils in a way that will help the pupils develop these essential ‘soft skills’ that will help them throughout academia and in the wider world.

    There is a consensus that outdoor learning “boosts student wellbeing” (Isaac, 2016) and their overall learning experience and so as I develop as a teacher I feel that I should explore possibilities to use outdoor learning along with digital technology to provide a rewarding experience for my pupils both academically and socially.

    References

Isaac, A. (2016). Tips and tricks for teachers: how outdoor learning boosts student wellbeing. [online] The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2016/jul/17/tips-tricks-teachers-how-outdoor-learning-boosts-student-wellbeing [Accessed 3 Feb 2018].

Pratap Singh, R. (2014). Top 18 Incredible Resources On Using QR Codes in eLearning and mLearning – eLearning Industry. [online] eLearning Industry. Available at: https://elearningindustry.com/using-qr-codes-in-elearning-and-mlearning [Accessed 4 Apr 2018].

Scottish Executive (2004). Curriculum for Excellence. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive.

Scottish Executive (2004). Curriculum for Excellence Through Outdoor Learning. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive.

Digital Technologies Week 9 – Games Based Learning 1

In this week of Digital Technologies, we reviewed how the Nintendo Wii could be used as a stimulus for and an enhancement to, learning in a primary classroom. In the past it has been observed that the use of computer games has promoted and help develop ‘soft skills’ in primary children but more modern approaches to ‘game-based learning’ focus on how games can be used as an interactive introduction or foundation to a lesson which advances other areas of the curriculum.  These modern approaches have

Mario Kart is a game in which a varied cast of characters compete in races around equally varied tracks with the goal of gaining the most points on a league table. At first I was rather sceptical about how this game could be used to teach children anything outside of the ‘soft skills’ mentioned above. However, after reflecting on different aspects of the game I have concluded that it can be used to support many learning outcomes from across the curriculum. For example, after participating in or watching a race, pupils may be asked to design an effective ‘kart’ based on the games rules for weight and perhaps even write a short description explaining why their design is more effective than the ‘karts’ presented in the game. The activity ties into the curriculum for excellence in the following ways:

  • “ When exploring technologies in the world around me, I can use what I learn to help to design or improve my ideas or products.” – (TCH 2-01a).
  • “I can convey information, describe events, explain processes or combine ideas in different ways.” – (LIT 2-28a).

Another activity would be again to participate in or watch a race and then to write a short story as a driver or spectator. By allowing children to interact in an environment they gain a more defined insight into that environment which in turn can inform and inspire their writing:

  • “As I write for different purposes and readers, I can describe and share my experiences, expressing what they made me think about and how they made me feel.” – (ENG 2-30a).
  • “I can recreate a convincing impression of a personal experience for my reader, sharing my feelings and reactions to the changing circumstances with some attempt at reflection.” – (ENG 3-30a).
  • “I am learning to use language and style in a way which engages and/or influences my reader.” – (ENG 2-27a).

There are of course many other ways that Mario Kart can be used in a teaching environment and has been noted by many teachers as being helpful in supporting the learning of Maths – with emphasis being drawn to “averages, decimal numbers, rounding and sorting data.” (Robertson, 2012)

In reflecting on ‘game-based learning’ I have also become aware of numerous concerns that must be addressed if these activities are to be successful. When planning ‘game-based learning’ the most obvious issue would be having enough hardware to allow a class of children to participate within the planned time of the lesson as lack of engagement with the material may severely impact pupils experience – especially those forced to miss a ‘turn’ due to lack of resources. Another concern is in the extent of teacher participation as I feel a lack of direction or focus either during the activity or the assessment may devalue ‘game-based learning’ outside of the ‘soft skills’ previously mentioned. Therefore, it is important that any lessons which focus or build on ‘game-based learning’ are well planned, researched and clearly defined both for teacher and pupil to ensure that the lessons link purposefully to the wider curriculum. (Learning-Teaching Scotland, 2010)

Mario Kart is just one of many games that can be played on the Nintendo Wii and as I develop as a teacher it may be prudent to research further games on a variety of platforms to find more opportunities for ‘game-based learning’ as I feel this style of learning offers a fun, motivating, attractive and accessible way for pupils to explore the curriculum.

References

Learning-Teaching Scotland (2010). The impact of console games in the classroom. Edinburgh: Learning-Teaching Scotland.

Robertson, A. (2012). Mario Kart in the classroom: the rise of games-based learning. [online] The Telegraph. Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/video-games/9745664/Mario-Kart-in-the-classroom-the-rise-of-games-based-learning.html [Accessed 3 Mar. 2018].

Scottish Executive (2004). Curriculum for Excellence. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive.

Digital Technologies Week 6 – Movie Making

Prior to this input I had never used movie making software. I was surprised both by how simple it was to use the iMovie app on the iPad, and by the versatility presented by the medium.

I would have never thought to link movie making to online safety before this input. Personally, I grew up in a time where it felt as though the adults around me were quite militant about not speaking to anybody online. It was accepted as something inherently dangerous and in my own group of friends it led to hiding online activities so that we were allowed the freedom to socialise online.

For this activity, my partner and I created a cautionary tale about a princess who speaks to someone online who is not who they appear to be when she goes to meet them. We had fun creating our film and it struck me while creating the movie that it would be a good way to introduce the subject of online safety with an element of levity. Getting students to create a film like this could incorporate a number of Technology Outcomes within the Curriculum for Excellence across stages:

  • I can explore and experiment with digital technologies and can use what I learn to support and enhance my learning in different contexts. TCH 1-01a
  • I can extend and enhance my knowledge of digital technologies to collect, analyse ideas, relevant information and organise these in an appropriate way. TCH 2-01a
  • I can extend my knowledge of how to use digital technology to communicate with others and I am aware of ways to keep safe and secure. TCH 1-03a
  • I can explore online communities demonstrating an understanding of responsible digital behaviour and I’m aware of how to keep myself safe and secure. TCH 2-03a

Porter (2004, p.35) states that “the digital environment provides a unique opportunity to empower people of all ages to manipulate, combine and distribute their self-expressions as living stories that can be sent into the world and through time.” In addition to this, the Scottish Government (2015) states that “there is conclusive evidence that digital equipment, tools and resources can, where effectively used, raise the speed and depth of learning in science and mathematics for primary and secondary learners.” After telling a story through the medium of film using the iMovie app, I am convinced of the usefulness of movie-making in the classroom as a way to enhance literacy and wellbeing lessons while also developing practical skills in Technologies which are valuable to the next generation.

An activity like this would be a useful way to start a conversation about how children should immediately tell an adult if anything is making them uncomfortable online. Beauchamp (2012, p.60) states that “the schools most successful in online safety were those who informed students on what to do if things went wrong.” If talking about the risks surrounding social networking is normalised in the classroom, I believe students in the classroom will be more likely to inform an adult and seek help – rather than assuming they will be given into trouble, like my peers and I when social networking was in its infancy.

 

References

Beauchamp, G. (2012). ICT in the Primary Classroom: From Pedagogy to Practice. Pearson.

Porter, B. (2004). Digi Tales: The Art of Telling Digital Stories. Bernajean Porter Publication.

Scottish Executive (2004). Curriculum for Excellence. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive.

Scottish Government (2015). Literature Review on the Impact of Digital Technology on Learning and Teaching.  [Online] http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/24843/1/00489224.pdf [Accessed: 01.04.18]