Resources, TECH WITH KIDS

Educational Games Roundup

For a reading reflection assignment for my Children & Technology course, I had to read two articles discussing the importance and benefits of digital game-based learning (DGBL). According to Shapiro, SalenTekinbas, Schwartz, and Darvasi (2014), using game-based learning as an educational tool encourages collaboration, problem solving, understanding of relationships, and mastery of concepts.

I found the idea of digital game-based learning all rather new and intriguing, so I decided to compile a few games and resources that can be used as educational and constructive tools, in either school or home settings. I sifted through some of the sites Shapiro et al. (2014) had recommended in the article and this what I came up with!

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  1. DreamBox features over 2, 300 game lessons that are designed to develop problem solving skills, critical thinking strategies, and math fluency. Educators can track students progress and make the lessons accessible in either English or Spanish. For one child at home, pricing is $12.95 per month; school pricing varies according to the number of children and comes in bundles.
  2. DragonBox 5+ is an app that’s designed to keep children the rules of algebra in a creative and learn-directed way. DragonBox 5+ first uses pictures rather than numbers or variables to make the concepts easier to understand. Children use the rules to solve puzzles and learn through trial and error. DragonBox 5+ is accessible on mobiles, tablets, and computers for $4.99.
  3. World of Goo is a Nintendo Switch game that’s focused on physics-based puzzle and construction. Globs of live goo are used to build bridges and structures. World of Goo is $9.99 on Nintendo.
  4. Bugs and Bubbles is a wonderful app for young children that helps develop their knowledge of colors, balance, letters, counting, shapes, patterns, sorting, and more. Detailed graphics, calming music, and advanced interactivity appeals to children’s senses and imaginative play. Bugs and Bubbles is available on the iTunes store for $3.99.
  5. Tell About This is a platform to inspire and capture children’s stories through word and photo prompts promotes children’s re-telling and imaginative skills. It’s easy to use and easy to share children’s thoughts and voices. Tell About This is available on the iTunes store for $3.99.

(Image credit: DreamBox)

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Reflection

Playshops – an emerging curriculum model

What is a playshop?

According to Wohlwend and Peppler (2015), playshops are a curricular model that was developed to encourage playful and collaborative learning as well as rigorous learning as; each playshop features various combinations of literacy, arts, sciences, or technology. The playshop model is intended to bring together and combine children’s strengths with the school curriculum (Wohlwend & Peppler, 2015).

On March 15, in my second-to-last Children & Technology class, my group and I had the opportunity to design, create, and represent our very own playshop! Our professor provided us with a wide array of random (to us) materials to choose from, and we had to think of a theme or idea we wanted to center our playshop around, taking on the roles of children within a playshop experience. In anticipation of the season, we decided on creating a nature/garden theme scene–combining arts and science. We used play-doh, chenille sticks, water bottles, poms poms, and other every day materials.

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For a lot of parents and educators today, there is still a huge dichotomy between play and learning; however, in actuality, play can be the key to deepening learning and tapping into children’s interests and strengths (Wohlwend & Peppler, 2015). The playshop model enriches learning across technologies and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) concepts, inventive and creative thinking, design and creative learning, collaborative experiences, and sustaining participation (Wohlwend & Peppler, 2015).

Each playshop experience is unique and individual to the children participating and their environment. Wohlwend and Peppler (2015) provide an example of a Grade 1 child who would typically only write a few words at a time transform into a screen-writer able to produce fifteen minutes of dramatic dialog within the context of a flim-making playshop. In the playshop model, children are active leaders in their own learning as they are given the freedom to create personal, meaningful experiences, take on different roles of their choosing, and scaffold on their previous knowledge.

I would love to see more of this model at work in school settings, considering there is so many socio-emotional and academic benefits to such a curriculum design that really taps into children’s interests and developmental needs.

Happy playing!

(Image credit: me)

TECH WITH KIDS

Social Robots for Educational Purposes

I was reading this article about how, in this digital day and age, social robots could be designed to be child-friendly with special functions to serve educational purposes. A social robot is a robot specifically designed to interact with humans. It got me thinking about how social robots work and the impacts of their interactions with children. In the article, Vogt, de Haas, de Jong, Baxter, and Krahmer (2017), emphasize that the robot is at its most effective when it is introduced as a peer and fellow learner, but having adult-like interaction strategies. It is important that the robot be adaptive to the needs of each individual child, thus staying within the Zone of Proximal Development (Vogt et al, 2017).

While this was the first I had heard of “social robots”, apparently they have been around for at least a few years now. In 2011, BBC published an article about how researchers are finding that social robots are helping children with profound autism learn social and communication skills through games and interactive play. The social robots are a means for the children to explore, observe, and engage with their environment without any negative reactions or responses (BBC, 2014).

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I did some more researching and found Robots4Autism, a program that uses purpose-built humanoid robots to deliver curriculum using evidence-based best practices for building social and behavioral skill development in a 1:1 setting. The robot, Milo, can smile, laugh, walk, and speak, giving children the opportunity to practice and develop their socio-emotional and communication skills. I’m curious as to how using a robot would play out in an inclusive educational setting, and if use of the robot could be integrated into a constructivist curriculum.

However, humanoids are not the only kind of child-friendly robot out there. In the video below, we can see Tega, a squishy, cartoon-like, smart-phone based social robot, designed by MIT’s Personal Robotics Lab. Tega has already been put to work teaching Spanish to preschoolers!

What do you all think about using social robots in an early childhood educational context? Would you use robots like Milo and Tega in your work with young children? Do you think children would have a preference between the two robots?

I, myself would have loved having Tega as a tool when I was doing my literacy intervention placement with the Toronto District School Board. She seems adorably interactive!

(Image credit: BBC News)