Teachers get valuable hands-on time with the creative PlayMaker tech toys.
It was a day of fun and games, and yet filled with fruitful learning.
No wonder the faces of the attendees at the PlayMaker Symposium organised by IDA were beaming and full of smiles.
Almost like children, you might think.
But it was actually a group of some 200 Early Childhood (EC) educators and practitioners from 68 preschools across Singapore who were the ones having the time of their lives, while learning about how to use technology to enhance learning for the kids under their charge.
The Symposium, held at the Lifelong Learning Institute at the end of December 2015, came on the heels of the successful proof-of-concept of the technology-enabled toys curated by the IDA Education Innovation team.
The family of tech toys includes Bee-Bot and the KIBO robotics kit, and the educators — hailing from PAP Community Foundation (PCF), My First Skool, MY World, Skool4Kidz and E-bridge preschools — came prepared to learn how to integrate these tech toys into their lessons.
These age and developmentally appropriate toys in the PlayMaker programme help children to develop skills like problem-solving, sequencing, reasoning, numeracy and literacy skills — in other words, the essential life-skills of the 21st century.
The programme gels with the key recommendations in the Infocomm Media 2025 plan to introduce younger children to technology, helping them to develop the necessary tech tinkering skills and creativity needed to let innovation blossom.
Learning Through Play
Ms. Yip Yuen Fong, Senior Director of the Sectoral Innovation Group (SIG) of IDA, was on hand to interact with the teachers. She communicated the increasing role that technology will play in the lives of our children with our Smart Nation initiative, during her opening address.
She added: “Through the use of tech-enabled toys, IDA Playmaker seeks to inspire our young children to play and make, sparking imagination and building creative confidence, as well as inculcate familiarity with the exploration of technology.”
Professor Marina Umaschi Bers from the prestigious Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development of Tufts University, delivered the keynote address of the Symposium.
Some interesting factoids: Professor Bers is also the co-founder and chief scientist at KinderLab Robotics, Inc., and the co-developer of the ScratchJr programming language. She spent over a decade on research in the design and study of innovative learning technologies to promote children’s positive development.
In her keynote address, she shared on how teachers could introduce the Engineering Design Process to young children through technology toys, and thus allow them to learn to identify and solve real world problems through planning and experimentation.
After the presentations came the practical, hands-on fun: The participants had the opportunity to attend workshops to experience first-hand on how to use the KIBO, Bee-Bot and Circuit Stickers toys — and develop lessons around them.
The teachers proved their creativity in their groups by delivering impressive works of art and tech, while mastering the sequencing skills needed to program the KIBO kits.
(They most definitely did not toy around during the symposium!)
Dr Weelai Suwanarat, Director of Professional & Education Development Division of the PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Preschool remarked that the PlayMaker Symposium gave her colleagues some ideas on how they can roll out these programmes to their children in the centres.
She added: “Since children are natural learners, it is going to be an added surprise and element of curiosity for them to work on.”
Following the Symposium, the preschools involved in Phase 1 of the PlayMaker Programme will receive their technology toys in early 2016.
And judging from the response at the Symposium, it appears that the teachers might enjoy using the PlayMaker toys just as much as the children will!
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