Skoolbo: Game based learning in elementary school

I recently read a great article, ‘Games for a digital age: K-12 market map and investment analysis‘ that has piqued my interest in the idea of game-based learning and how the evolving world of educational technology can be used to bring a new experience to game-based learning.

In the article, the authors define game-based in a number of ways, but ultimately explain that it must include:

  • voluntary participation
  • a goal (finish line, objective achieved, win/lose, etc)
  • rules to structure the game
  • feedback system(s), which can be in the form of rewards and incentives
  • (in the context of schools) knowledge or educational outcomes

Recently we introduced a trial of a relatively new app to our Senior Kindergarten iPads called Skoolbo. It is also available for download on Android devices, Windows PCs and Macs. It captured my interest because of its game based learning environment which fits in very well with our play-based inquiry learning philosophy. It’s been great! The developer, Shane Hill (former Mathletics developer) has done a great job of incorporating the elements of play based learning.

  • voluntary participation
    • students were accessing Skoolbo from home before the teacher was even able to set them up at school!
    • Access to Skoolbo in class is usually on a voluntary basis during ‘centre time’ where a variety of play-based learning experiences are available to students. They love it and are happy to play!
  • a goal (finish line, objective achieved, win/lose, etc)
    • Within each game, students race to the finish line in their plane or on foot by answering as many questions correctly as they can. The more correct answers, the faster they go. If they get three wrong, they’re out.
    • Another set of goals is provided via the rewards schemes… see below.
  • rules to structure the game
    • The rules are simple… the more correct answers, the faster you go.
    • The more you play, the more you are able to customise aspects such as your plane.
    • 3 incorrect answers and you’re out.
  • feedback system(s), which can be in the form of rewards and incentives
    • Rewards schemes are also cleverly built-in to the game to encourage short, mid and long-term participation. Such rewards include becoming a superhero after meeting a certain objective.
    • Indirect feedback is also provided in the adaptable question base. As students perform well, the questions get harder. As they begin to struggle, the questions get easier. Soon an average is met that challenges students at just the right level.
  • (in the context of schools) knowledge or educational outcomes
    • At this stage, the game hones in on core literacy and math skills. After pre-assessment on the first 4 games, the system cleverly adapts to the child’s ability.

To finish up, check out this little smarty in action!

 

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Kindergarten Computer Art

People share ideas through visual art. This is the understanding that our Senior Kindergarten (SK) teachers and students are working towards. Using the design process of experimenting, planning, creating and evaluating, the students have been exposed to a range of artistic medium including paint, watercolours, crayons, coloured sand over a light box, clay etc.

We have also been exploring various forms of digital art using the computers in our learning pod. Initially, we explored a variety of websites (www.3x3links.com/skart). Some of these focus on mixing colours, others on composing art pieces in the style of famous artists such as Picasso, and others more open to freeform artworks.

Students using Curious George Mix n Paint

After being introduced to the websites, the students had time to explore the variety amongst them. Many children gravitated to the Curious George Mix n Paint website which was terrific for helping students learn various colour mixes. Others loved the freedom they had to make ‘silly’ looking faces using PicassoHead, while others enjoyed the freedom of being able to paint what they wanted to in Kerpoof and ArtPad. When their art pieces were completed, the students shared their ideas and inspiration with the teacher who was able to transcribe their thoughts on to the page for them. Students were very proud to hold their final artwork in their hands after printing them out.

The Way I Feel, by Janan Cain

Stretching our thinking and understandings further, we began to explore how colours can allow us to express emotions, thoughts and feelings. With the assistance of the wonderful picture book, ‘The Way I Feel’, by Janan Cain, we learned how happy colours are bright and colourful, sad colours are dark and blue, angry colours are red and fiery, while scared colours were black and grey. After choosing an emotion to share through art, the students used Paint to create emotion based digital art work. When finished, some students typed the colours they had used and again shared their thoughts with the teacher who was able to record these for the student.

As with any technology integration, the students have not only gained a richer understanding of their central idea, but developed some key technology skills such as mouse control, keyboarding, manipulating images through software and navigating the internet.

EdTech tips and tools from the week – 9th Sept 2011

TIPS

Unfortunately didn’t get around to any readings this week – it’s been a busy one. A few handy tools below however. Enjoy!

 

TOOLS

KinderChat (via @hechternacht)

  • A lovely wiki hosting all of the tools and resources that emerge from the #kiinderchat on twitter. You don’t need to use twitter to benefit from the chats – simply go to this site to see all of their resources.

Lexilogos – multi-language dictionaries and multi-language keyboard inputs

  • This is a great site with loads of multi-language supports.
  • My favourite feature is the Multi-Lingual Keyboard. It displays an onscreen keyboard in loads of languages and also takes phonetic keyboard input. For example, when I type ka on my keyboard using the Japanese keyboard, the input on the screen is か. Used in conjunction with www.google.com/translate, this tool may well save the sanity of many ESOL learners and their teachers.

Edheads (via @deir75)

  • Some great interactive, child (sometimes older child) friendly resources on the human body, simple machines and the like.

7 Ideas in 7 Minutes (via @ianaddison)

  • Some fantastic resources for teachers, displayed in a 7 minute video.
  • There are some excellent tools for early childhood/kindergarten educators.

5 gmail tips for teachers via @jutecht

  • A last minute inclusion, this blog post from Jeff Utecht gives 5 great tips to help you manage your email – if you use gmail or Google Apps for Education at your campus. I make use of every one of these tips every day!