We had a bubble-bursting good time sharing the Gracie & Friends Treasure Bubbles iPad app, now available in the Apple App Store, with our young friends and teachers. What was our approach to integrating this collaborative game into the preschool classroom? Modeling how we can work together to learn math — which is “awesome” and totally clap-worthy!
This modeling — and it’s absolutely participatory modeling with the teachers and children! — is all part of our Professional Development for effective integration of research-based, developmentally appropriate games into the preschool classroom. Teachers model the apps for the children, inviting their thoughts, their voices, and their touch.
As for the children? We saw a lot of joy and exuberance while learning together! And that’s the true treasure.
This video from the field features children collaborating to figure out how to take pictures of each other so that they can appear in our “Photo Friends” game. Add a dash of teacher facilitation and a thoughtfully designed game for math learning, and we have a very potent combination for learning with technology.
As we delve further into this project, we’re finding out that there’s no one-size-fits-all game or type of game that can meet all the needs of preschoolers as they’re learning math. This video provides a peek at the various learning experiences we’re designing through our different types of games:
Several of our games are self-leveling, which means that they respond to a player’s performance, increasing in difficulty when the player is succeeding, or adding more scaffolding and support when the player is struggling. These games are particularly useful for teachers to see how well a preschooler knows the material, so we’re also working on providing a way for teachers to track their students’ progress.
Some of our games are collaborative, which means that they can be played by more than one person. While this type of game isn’t optimal for tracking how a particular student is doing, it’s great for learning from one another and developing the skills needed to work together and share. Our prototype testing at our preschool partner sites has allowed us to observe all kinds of collaborative play happening, and we’re very excited by what we’ve seen.
(Based on what we’ve seen, we think collaborative learning games will be the centerpiece of any impactful technology supplement in the classroom. While there aren’t a lot of examples out there today, we’re keeping an eye out. Check out this Tigerface Games app and let us know what you think!)
Our last set of games are sandbox activities. Like a real sandbox, which has no single purpose or goal, our sandbox games are designed for free play and exploration. We’re still exploring how to best use this type of game for math learning, but we know that the freedom to wonder and discover is crucial for math learning, and a free-play environment can foster that in the classroom. (Check out this video to learn more about a sandbox prototype we’ve been working on.)
Here’s a great article by Audrey Waters on how iPads were able to help increase kindergartener’s literacy scores in classrooms in Auburn, Maine. Wired also did an article on the success of iPads in these Maine classrooms and how the shift towards iPads is affecting teachers.