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Tagged With: play

5 reasons why outdoor learning is vital for young children

Great reminder about the importance of play from one of our Ask a Tech Teacher contributors

Outdoor education might sound like a modern fad to many. However, there are so many advantages to this that it is critical for young children. Continue reading to find out why.

  1. Dispel the myth that learning only occurs in school

Many people, not just children, believe that learning only happens within the school building. It is something formal, something strict, and something planned. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Plus, teachers aren’t the only educators in a child’s life; parents, siblings, grandparents, club leaders and so on all play a part.

  1. Apply learning in different contexts

If children only learn about the value of money within a classroom, they may not be able to apply that skill to their own lives. For example, a child who has the opportunity to go to the shop and spend a dollar will understand the concept of exchanging money for an item far better than someone who only completes a worksheet based on it. The same goes for skills like measuring. Why should children only be made to measure the length of things within a classroom? In the great outdoors, people building enclosures for their animals, a new fence for their garden or setting up a campsite will all need to use the skill of measuring. Furthermore, understanding the use of technology within life outside of school is vital too. Many teachers encourage the use of an electronic device to help measure or a website to support learning.

  1. Promotes active lifestyle

“Stop running!” School buildings are a place where you must not run or jog, unless of course, you are a teacher in a rush. Rules can be broken then. When classrooms are done badly, they create passive individuals. Learners who follow the rules, but who are not fully engaged in what they are doing. Take the pupils outdoor,s and what do they do first? They run around! There are fewer limitations imposed on them and it allows them to not only be active in terms of their engagement, but also their physical selves. Who says that a child can’t successfully learn their times tables while taking part in games outdoors?

  1. Learn through play

Learning through play is the most common method of education for young children. Play comes naturally in the great outdoors as there are fewer limitations and more opportunities. This preschool Utah outdoor space just shows what is possible. Although a classroom setup may have a role play area, for example, it also has more formal areas in which children know they will have to sit and learn. Spending time outdoors and allowing the children to create their own opportunities for learning is essential. Anna Ephgrave’s Planning in the Moment approach is perfect for this.

  1. Physical and sensory approach works for younger children

Many children rely on a physical and sensory approach to learning when they are young. The outdoors is the obvious choice for many to have this opportunity. It seems much more acceptable to encourage water and messy play outside.

Although we feel strongly that children should be actively encouraged to spend time outdoors during their early years of education, the advantages can certainly continue into later life too. It is also vital to ensure the environment itself is fit for purpose, providing prompts and apparatus to support their learning.

More on play and learning

Kid-created Games That Teach

How to Blend Learning with Play for a Kid-friendly Summer

Should You Unschool?

Learning and Playing and Why Both Matter for Teachers


Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

Categories: Education reform | Tags: | Leave a comment

Kid-created Games That Teach

gamification of learning

It’s discouraging to all stakeholders that annually, about 1.2 million students fail to graduate from high school. And “Pathways to Prosperity” reports that just 56% of college attendees complete a degree. Fingers point all directions but nothing changes the stark truth: Something causes kids to hate learning so much that they’d rather face their future without the knowledge or skills to do so successfully.

Solutions to this problem abound but one of the most popular with K-16 educators — because it works — is to gamify learning. Wikipedia defines “gamification” as:

“an educational approach to motivate students to learn by using video game design and game elements in learning environments. The goal is to maximize enjoyment and engagement through capturing the interest of learners and inspiring them to continue learning.”

Games remind kids of days when they chose their own seats, worked at their own pace, and responded to their own interests. Through childhood games, they learned social skills, problem-solving, sequencing, and a whole bunch more while they thought they were doing a puzzle, building blocks, or playing dodgeball.

Fast forward to formal schooling. As early as Kindergarten, kids are stuck into classrooms where play is replaced with rote drills, repetition, and growing boredom. It’s taken the experts decades but finally, the value of applying gameplaying characteristics to learning is being recognized as a formidable approach. I’ve written much about the use of games and simulations but today, I want to focus on the student as maker, where they create the game, troubleshoot problems, and refine the end result — exactly the traits valued by coding and programming.

Here are some of my favorite game creation tools for students:

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Categories: Games/Simulations, Reviews | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

How to Blend Learning with Play for a Kid-friendly Summer

summer learningWith summer fast approaching all over the Northern Hemisphere, kids are eager for time away from teachers, textbooks, and To-do lists. In Ireland, Italy, Greece, Russia, and other Eurasian nations, summer vacation lasts about three months. In Australia, Britain, The Netherlands, Canada, and Germany, it’s six to eight weeks. American students get roughly ten weeks.

While kids celebrate, teachers and parents worry students will lose their academic edge. It turns out that concern is valid. Statistics say over the summer, kids lose over two months of math skills, two months of reading skills, and one month of overall learning. Efforts to prevent summer learning loss propel often-unpopular year-round school initiatives and all manner of summer school and summer camps that focus on cerebral topics.

Worry no more. The cure is much simpler: Disguise learning as play. Using the websites below, kids will think they’re playing games while actually engaging in the leading [mostly] free games and simulations in the education field.

A note: some must be downloaded and a few purchased, so the link provided might take you to a website that provides access rather than play.

General

Here are two gamified options that can be tweaked to address any topic:

  • Digital Breakouts — Players of all ages use teamwork and critical thinking to solve a series of challenging puzzles that ultimately enable them to achieve a goal. Digital Breakouts are an update to the traditional and popular webquests that have students explore the web as they gather content in a particular field — history, math, literacy, or others. A great collection of free, ready-made digital breakouts can be found over at Tom’s Digital Breakouts. These don’t have to be played online; for a fee, students can play unplugged.
  • Flash cards — apps like the free Brainscape provide topical flash cards kids can memorize in between the rest of summer stuff. You might even provide badges for the lists students finish.

Financial Literacy

Summer is a great time to learn topics that require dedicated periods of time — like a financial literacy program. These are important for high schoolers, but often not required for graduation. That means many students transition to that almost-adult point in their life where they need to understand credit cards, bank accounts, paying bills, and other financial concepts but have no real knowledge of how these work.

Here are a few sites that gamify financial literacy topics and can be completed over the summer:

  • Banzai – online free comprehensive financial literacy program
  • You are here – kids learn to be smart consumers

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Categories: Economics, Games/Simulations, History, Math, Problem solving, Science, Social media, Websites | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Should You Unschool?

unschoolingThe first time I read about Unschooling, I ignored it. Surely, it was a fad that would go away.

When that didn’t happen and I read about it a thousand more times, I dug into it. Inspired by the teachings of John Holt (1923–1985), this free range branch of homeschooling promotes learning through nonstructured, child-led exploration. There’s no set curriculum or schedule; students learn what interests them with guidance from involved adults. There are no worksheets, tests, or structure to provide evidence of learning or templates for teaching. The children pick what to learn, when, at what pace. The result — according to unschoolers, is a love of learning, tenacity to a task, and independent thought that prepares them for college and career better than traditional methods. In fact, if you look at the list of traits valued in popular education programs such as Habits of Mind and Depth of Knowledge, the reasons why parents unschool their children mirror the traits included in these lists.

What is it

According to  Dr. Peter Gray of Freedom to Learn:

Unschooling parents do not … do at home the kinds of things that are done at school. More specifically, they do not establish a curriculum for their children, do not require their children to do particular assignments for the purpose of education, and do not test their children to measure progress. Instead, they allow their children freedom to pursue their own interests and to learn, in their own ways, what they need to know to follow those interests. They may, in various ways, provide an environmental context and environmental support for the child’s learning. In general, unschoolers see life and learning as one.”

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Categories: Classroom management, Teacher resources | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Learning and Playing and Why Both Matter for Teachers

playPlay as the vehicle of education is not a revolutionary idea. Pedagogy has long recommended ‘play’ as a superior teacher for youngers–

Play is the great synthesizing, integrating, and developing force in childhood and adolescence. –PsycINFO Database Record 2012 APA,

The play of children is not recreation; it means earnest work. Play is the purest intellectual production of the human being, in this stage … for the whole man is visible in them, in his finest capacities, in his innermost being.~ Friedrich Froebel

In general, research shows strong links between creative play and language, physical, cognitive, and social development. Play is a healthy, essential part of childhood. —Department of Education, Newfoundland Labrador

Young children learn the most important things not by being told but by constructing knowledge for themselves in interaction with the physical world and with other children – and the way they do this is by playing.” –Jones, E., & Reynolds, G.  “The play’s the thing: Teachers’ roles in children’s play”
..

Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Nick Garvin, founder of StackUp, has these thoughts on why both learning and playing matter for teachers:

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What is the 21st Century Lesson Plan?

lesson plansTechnology and the connected world put a fork in the old model of teaching–instructor in front of the class, sage on the stage, students madly taking notes, textbooks opened to the chapter being reviewed, homework as worksheets based on the text, tests regurgitating important facts.

Did I miss anything?

This model is outdated not because it didn’t work (many statistics show students ranked higher on global testing years ago than they do now), but because the environment changed. Our classrooms are more diverse. Students are digital natives, already in the habit of learning via technology. The ‘college and career’ students are preparing for is different so the education model must be different.

Preparing for this new environment requires radical changes in teacher lesson plans. Here are seventeen concepts you’ll want to include in your preparation:

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Categories: Critical thinking, Education reform, Lesson plans | Tags: | 69 Comments

Playful Learning–What a Great Idea

playPlayful Learning (Parents’ Choice Gold Medal website) is a well-done, professional-looking website that  offers advice, projects, and visual images touting the benefits of education through play. The reader is drawn into the child-centered imagery and strong basic colors, wanting everything on offer so their child’s play areas can look and work as described.

Let’s back up a moment. Play as the vehicle of education is not a revolutionary idea. Pedagogy has long recommended ‘play’ as a superior teacher for youngers–

Play is the great synthesizing, integrating, and developing force in childhood and adolescence. –PsycINFO Database Record 2012 APA,

The play of children is not recreation; it means earnest work. Play is the purest intellectual production of the human being, in this stage … for the whole man is visible in them, in his finest capacities, in his innermost being.~ Friedrich Froebel

In general, research shows strong links between creative play and language, physical, cognitive, and social development. Play is a healthy, essential part of childhood. —Department of Education, Newfoundland Labrador

Young children learn the most important things not by being told but by constructing knowledge for themselves in interaction with the physical world and with other children – and the way they do this is by playing.” –Jones, E., & Reynolds, G.  “The play’s the thing: Teachers’ roles in children’s play”

(more…)

Categories: Education reform, Homeschool, Parents, Research, Reviews, Websites, Writing | Tags: , , | 2 Comments