News Column

Software adds play to teaching

May 27, 2014

Lilian Ochieng -1

JumpStart, a digital learning software, has become one of the latest acquisitions that a child could use to enjoy learning from a tender age.

The programme takes advantage of the high percentage of tech savviness in young people and exploiting it for educational purposes.

A creation of two American tourists, Ms Alinda Ware and Mr Ken King, the digital software draws children from the ordinary classroom to a playful world where learning languages and arithmetic is fun.

Research shows that the best students in tertiary classes are those whose backgrounds were well laid in kindergarten, all the way to the final stage of primary school.

According to an Auckland University professor, the majority of students who take best positions during their higher learning are those who played enough and had the best skills exposed to them at an early age.

The same sentiments are echoed by Ms Ware and Mr King. It was with this understanding that they were able to tell the problem in the Kenyan learning environment with a simple visit to the country some years back.

"It was devastating that Class Eight results announced in 2011 locked out many pupils from the 200 mark out of 500. The Kenya Certificate of Primary Education might have been difficult, I thought," Ms Ware recalls.

The two then adapted the American learning system to Kenya's, seeking to have a find out how examination results might be affected by the digital learning incentives. They are hopeful that these new methods of learning will in fact contribute to better learning.

DSchool was then formed with a special touch for Kenya's education system. It is now operated by the two, and has its regional headquarters in western Kenya. It has managed to provide American educational software suited for children of varied ages, right from age two.

The programmes are designed in the spirit of "learning through play" and "learning through doing," acting on the philosophy that learning should be fun and the best games are those that encompass the two simultaneously.

DSchool, the digital firm, manufactures and manages software called Jumpstart, which makes learning interactive. The firm had developed an array of software from aptitude tests, math and basic biology  games  all of which are interactive and fun for young students.

 The firm has also come up with ways of spreading the incentives countrywide. DSchool booths have been set up in various counties and computers pre-installed with the software.

These centres provide affordable learning stopovers for pupils and students who cannot afford to buy individual software.

The materials are appropriate for use at home and in school by the teacher and pupil.

According to the Microsoft IT Academy programme, online learning incentives have the power to help teachers deliver formative feedback that learners can use to improve work in class.

"Combining the physical and virtual classrooms brings about best skills in learners," the journal, issued during this year's Microsoft in Education Global Forum in Barcelona, further states.

These software come at a time when the government is facing a deficit in learning material and skills to complement its laptops for class one project.

According to education principal secretary Mr Belio Kipsang, Kenya has so far trained 150,000 teachers in preparation for government's plan to adopt e-learning in schools.

"This, coupled with the right digital content that has been approved by Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), will result in a whole new era of pupils with very sharp learning skills," says Mr Kipsang.

JumpStart has, however, taken a completely different approach to learning by integrating games into education. DSchool has further launched software that is compatible with android operating system, to reach the masses who use smartphones.

Mr Wycliff Kibisu, the regional operator of DSchool, says that the digital material comes with math blaster and reading blaster for ages two to four.

"We have JumpStart pre-school, kindergarten, grade 1 to 6," said Mr Kibisu. "This is enough to lay a child's foundation. Experts have proved that children learn best using songs, rhymes and games."

This software uses the natural learning environment to teach every basic skills from spelling, math and English.

DSchool has successfully put to use the concept of "anytime anywhere learning" where students watch videos on the bus, work remotely with classmates in the evenings, and submit homework assignments electronically.

For more stories covering the world of technology, please see HispanicBusiness' Tech Channel

Source: Citizen, The (Tanzania)

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