Views & Opinion

But I am 4, I can’t write stories! Comment by ALICIA BLANCO-BAYO, Early Years teacher at Kirkham Grammar School

Having researched the perspective of Boyce et al. (2015), this quote summarises how the conversations we have with children can without a doubt make a difference. ‘One might question how a small bit of random information gained from a conversation could possibly be of value; however, mental growth is exponential. Every experience with new information that prompts a thinking process also expands background knowledge and engages the child mentally’.(173) I have often looked at children as they choose

the resources they feel most comfortable with and wondered about the thoughts they have as they make those choices. I still often find myself wondering about the silent language that is used while they are engaged in their play. A

series of observations of children carrying out tasks they felt happy doing led me to want to trial some strategies that could support the development of writing skills at such a young age. Our “Carpet Time” is such an exciting time of day, we had to make use of the opportunity so that we would select words from the morning discussions to find story books that were meaningful to the children. A selection of books was then made available to children

with a practitioner always nearby to read them, or very often to simply interact with the children as they looked through the books and described what was happening on each page. Since I was looking at the foundations of writing, I chose to take notes about the way

different children structured their sentences, the type of words they were using and whether they were able to distinguish tenses. This gave me a clear idea as to where children were at with regards to their language and communication skills. However, I considered it necessary to analyse the creative side of learning too, with the intention of establishing a link between using words to create sentences and those sentences to create a story plot. If we think about it, children speak before they can write and they are amazing at making up stories around toys and when they are engaged in role-play scenarios. This was the angle I took so that I could offer children opportunities to create stories even though they could not yet write at all.

Is gamification a successful way of improving

learning outcomes? Comment by JAYNE WARBURTON, CEO, 3P Learning, Europe and Middle East

With today’s school children being the first generation of ‘digital natives’, many classrooms are running “Bring Your Own Device” schemes, or equipping pupils with tablet devices. It is therefore inevitable that schools will use gamification to raise engagement and standards. Gamification is the concept of applying game mechanics and game design

techniques to engage and motivate learners to achieve their goals. It combines the fun and most enjoyable aspects of gaming with instruction, practice and feedback to encourage learners to become more engaged in the learning process. However gamification is about much more than simply creating a game. It

means making education more fun and engaging, without diminishing or undermining pedagogical credibility. It helps learners gain motivation towards studying and because of the positive feedback, they get pushed forwards and become more interested and stimulated to learn. Most teachers use some form of gamification to raise engagement and improve

results in a particular topic. Some resources are freely available online but generally ‘paid for’ digital resources offer additional features, such as assigning tasks, tailoring courses and tracking progress. Reward systems are generally integrated and there is often a facility to generate an element of competition amongst pupils as they ‘play’. Engagement is the important metric for success in gamification. Gamification is

about more than making boring subjects “fun” – though this is a common perception. It’s more accurate to say that gamification is about engagement. It works largely by providing instant feedback – quickly rewarding even the smallest level of progress. Research shows that “game”-based digital resources boost learners’ motivation

- and thereby their learning - by leveraging cognitive, emotional and social needs. The narrative of a game helps achieve mastery in challenging academic tasks, simultaneously invoking emotions such as pride and frustration, whilst also

December 2016

allowing learners to test out new social identities that grant them academic kudos. From the pupil’s point of view, it offers an opportunity to learn independently

and engage in a subject using a medium they find enjoyable. Primary students are drawn to the fun and enjoyment that digital resources offer, while secondary students will use resources to drive their own learning and for revision. Teachers generally using gamification tools by integrating the use of technology

with traditional teaching methods, providing them with easy access to engaging and varied content for their pupils. It is vital for any school considering integrating gamification into their lessons to

ensure that the content of the digital resource is pedagogically sound and offers clear educational value, whilst providing engaging and fun games for students. It’s important that the learning environment can be personalised and offers a

reward system to encourage ownership and motivation. Schools should also be clear about identifying the objectives they want to

address when looking to implement digital resources – this is key in ensuring that teachers can measure the outcomes, whether it is attainment, progress or engagement. They should also be trained to use the resource effectively as part of a blended model and to support traditional teaching methods. Tablet computers are fast becoming a preferred medium for teaching and

learning – with devices such as the iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab and LearnPad at the forefront. When you also hear parents reporting that their pre-school children are seemingly completely iPad ‘literate’ and consider that today’s KS3 and KS4 students very much represent the “Playstation generation”, you can only foresee a significant increase in uptake and deployment in both a school and home setting. Games are powerful motivators and integrating them into education gives

educators another tool in their resource box to get students learning – and crucially, to love learning! 13

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