Caring and sharing

Second school visit this morning was in Overfields Primary on the EYFS project with iPods and iPads. Some really interesting observations from it. The pods, pads and two Nintendo DS’s were on a table and the children had free access to use them when they wanted to. The teacher remarked to me that one of the most obvious ways in which the devices support learning is the way that the children are prepared to take turns (they will stand and watch the person using the device whilst they are waiting) and actively help each other to use them. Here is a child who has just been taught by his friend how to create an avatar and is now showing a girl what to do:

The children have a wide range of apps on the device as a major part of the research is simply to look at which apps support learning and whether the smaller device is more or less effective than the larger:

Some children prefer the smaller device as it fits in their hand better, the child in the video above chose the iPod rather than the iPad and told me that was the reason. What is very clear from all of the video clips is the level of concentration that is going on. One of the children in the clips is normally very excitable, especially on the playground where they are often in trouble. In this context they are all very calmly working, often in collaboration or with a level of respect of what other children are doing. To be fair, this particular setting always has an excellent ethos in this respect but the teacher told me that these devices very much help that.

A lot of the children enjoyed the pelmanism based game “Preschool Memory Match”. What was astonishing was the level of challenge they chose to take on. The basic setting has 12 blocks to work with, the clip below shows one of the children systematically using a the setting with 100 blocks:

Although he didn’t continue his systematic approach across the whole board, he often came back to that way of working with a great degree of success. He also developed a technique where he tricked the game by hitting six or seven blocks at once with his fingers so he could see more at one time. I rarely see children of this age so absorbed by such a mentally challenging task in other more traditional contexts. The beauty of it is also that he isn’t simply cocooned in what he is doing, it becomes something that he points out to other children and has pride in. He earlier worked on Epic Citadel, which I’d not used with children of this age before but it was clear that he was very adept at navigating round:

He spoke to me at some length about how he had found certain locations and how he liked to explore further.

Although the research is open, the focus of the project is to look at CLL and how the devices can support this. Some of the apps were chosen specifically for this purpose. The most popular phonics app seems to be Hairy Letters (my 2 year old also loves it) which is often the app of choice for the children. The phonemes are about as good as we have sen on any app and there is a choice of tracing letters as well as building CVC words. One of the children kept getting the tracing wrong…on purpose…because because it made the character “bottom burp”, although he didn’t use those words!

Most of the children were choosing the word building game aspect of the app and it seemed that they were very confident with this level of challenge. The teacher remarked that it would be nice to have a level with blends, trigraphs etc. The boy in the video was whizzing through those examples but watching him longer term it was fascinating to see him voicing the sounds as he touched on each grapheme, then putting it all together to make the word.

The last clip (there were more but I have been ruthless!) demonstrates how easily the children get to grips with an app. I showed the boy WeeMee and set it to make a boy avatar. Look at the screen at the very end of what he has made and look at the image below, which shows what he started with approximately 3 minutes earlier. He went on to make four avatars.

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