Different Game Modes for Different Learning

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.)

Welcome to Next Gen Math

We are a team of interactive media producers and educational researchers on a mission to create and evaluate new ways of learning and teaching using mobile technology – tablets, specifically – in preschool. Join us as we share our journey through this blog and wrestle with these critical questions:

  • How can a media-rich curriculum supplement support math learning in preschool?
  • How can we take best advantage of all that tablet technology offers learning in the preschool learning environment, where learning is social and often teacher-mediated?
  • How might the technology begin to shift pedagogical practices?
  • What kind of collaboration is developmentally appropriate for four year-olds?

The Next Generation Preschool Math is a 4-year, $3.5m research project that seeks to answer these questions and pose new ones. In partnership with research scientists from the Center on Children and Technology at EDC and SRI International, WGBH will be designing a blended learning suite of 8 tablet apps. The apps will be complemented by non-digital materials designed to integrate with the rhythms and spaces that make a preschool classroom tick – learning centers, snack time, recess and story time.

“Why Do Some People Learn Faster?”

I came across this brief Wired article that nicely covers some psychological studies on learning from one’s mistakes, and thought it’d be a helpful reminder of how to praise children . The latter half of the article gives an overview of Carol Dweck’s research on growth mindset, the belief that we can get better at anything as long as we put in time and effort. 

It’s fascinating how a subtle difference like praising effort over intelligence can have such a profound impact on behavior and achievement. It’s especially inspiring to think about how something like the NGPM project can help liberate children from the fear of failure.

Excerpt from the article:

Dweck’s next set of experiments showed how this fear of failure can actually inhibit learning. She gave the same fifth graders yet another test. This test was designed to be extremely difficult — it was originally written for eighth graders — but Dweck wanted to see how the kids would respond to the challenge. The students who were initially praised for their effort worked hard at figuring out the puzzles. Kids praised for their smarts, on the other hand, were easily discouraged. Their inevitable mistakes were seen as a sign of failure: Perhaps they really weren’t so smart. After taking this difficult test, the two groups of students were then given the option of looking either at the exams of kids who did worse or those who did better. Students praised for their intelligence almost always chose to bolster their self-esteem by comparing themselves with students who had performed worse on the test. In contrast, kids praised for their hard work were more interested in the higher-scoring exams. They wanted to understand their mistakes, to learn from their errors, to figure out how to do better.