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Views & Opinion Let them

simply be Comment by Alicia Blanco-Bayo, Early Years teacher at Kirkham Grammar School

As I observe children whilst they are totally engaged in outdoor play, I find myself trying to justify the learning behind the excitement I can sense simply by being surrounded by amazing little people. At this point I choose to note down key words that enter my mind about children’s responses to different situations as they relate to each other whilst they play. These notes might be accompanied by images of what I call “engagement through play”. There is no instruction manual to make sure that the

learning behind every experience children go through during the time they spend under the supervision of Early Years Practitioners is justified. There are no guidelines set in stone that define the necessity to keep a record of absolutely everything children do so that, as Early Years specialists, we can evidence every single learning opportunity. However, there are professionals who know the children they spend time with so well that they can provide exactly what those children need to take little steps onto the next stage in their development.

Understanding children’s responses Analysing a real scenario can put things into perspective to help us understand what the exposure to different experiences is doing for children. It was a particularly cold day and although it was dry, it

was one of those days when anyone would have preferred to stay indoors. Since we knew how beneficial being outdoors could be for 3 year olds, we covered ourselves up and off we went to explore the world. According to many of those manuals that offer samples of good practice for this and good practice for that, there might have been something missing in the outdoor area we had access to. Since it was the engagement we were looking at, the simplicity of the provision played a very important part in this. The children were not given any type of instruction as to how to use any of the equipment outdoors, they were left to choose what they wanted to play with. As often happens with the wonderful little individuals I have the pleasure to spend time with, I was once again blown away by their spontaneity and desire to explore the world. Wooden benches became shelters and bricks treasures to

look after. The slide turned into a mountain and climbing up it was the task of a knight who was so strong he/she didn’t have to use the steps to get to the top. The trellis was the beanstalk that everyone wanted to climb up, to see if there was a real castle at the top of it. As I took very simple notes about many of the

engagement opportunities I saw, I realised that I could describe many of the aspects of learning in the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework with examples of true meaningful and purposeful interaction through play. Those abilities we get to see applied through spontaneous

chances to experiment carry messages for us to interpret. It is our role to decode these messages so that we can facilitate further excitement to learn about the world as we, adults and children, explore it together.

April 2016

Can education really be a game?

Comment by Lynsey Jenkins, Marketing Director, LapCabby

Technology is changing everything around us, and education is no exception. The rate at which technology is influencing how we learn has hit an unprecedented level. Gone are the days of laptops for students and interactive whiteboards being novel – nowadays the cutting edge of education technology helps us to learn on the move, use specialised software and possibly even learn through virtual reality.

However, the way in which these technological developments are integrated into learning environments has wide-reaching consequences. To safeguard future economic prosperity, the UK has to ensure that its curriculum helps students develop the skills that they need. If it doesn‘t, the UK may well find itself lagging behind other countries with digitally-powered economies. Here, we discuss gamification, a notion set to shape and drive digital education over the coming year.

Gamification is applying game-like principles to a system in order to drive its interaction and appeal. This can be done in several ways including game-based and simulation-based learning, points, badges and leader boards. Some basic examples of this would be a league table for students learning their times tables, or on a larger scale, the National spelling bee in the US.

Most people will have experienced some form of gamification during their lives. The popular language learning app Duolingo springs to mind as a modern example of this, which uses a points-based system of progression. However, gamification itself is not a new concept. In fact, these basic principles have been utilised by educational institutions for many years. Schools offer rewards for good behaviour and homework, some going as far as to base these around popular IPs such as Harry Potter and the four houses of Hogwarts.

The power of gamification is its ability to provide context to a student’s understanding and knowledge. They directly interact with the data and don’t see it as an abstract ‘thing’, but as a meaningful concept which is strengthened by immediate results and feedback. Giving students such context gives them another opportunity to improve retention and comprehension rates. Technology only strengthens this concept. With these new advances, there is a continuously expanding number of possibilities and ways to integrate technological gamification into the classroom. Graphite and Playful Learning are strong examples of this in the US, offering gamified digital learning tools for teachers and students. In fact, the educational gamification market is forecast for significant growth over the next four years by P&S Market Research, particularly in the UK, US and China.

However, the most apparent issue with gamification is, like most technological advances, its correct implementation. If abstract, then learning becomes secondary to the game. Education must always be the priority, and games must suit the subject matter being taught. Educational games should also be streamlined, or else the game can take up too much time, or can prove too costly - the correct balance is key. It’s also important to remember that gamification is an addition to the classroom - good teachers are needed to drive it as a concept and ensure that it delivers results. All in all, if teachers are properly trained in its implementation and the correct balance is struck - gamification can have a lot to offer to education. 13

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