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5 Ideas For Using Touchscreens To Enhance Early Years Learning

Used properly, tech devices can lend a new dimension to early education – here are a few quick ideas to prove it

  • 5 Ideas For Using Touchscreens To Enhance Early Years Learning

Take a moment to think about the enabling environment. It’s a commitment from Development Matters that allows us to change the way we teach and the way children learn. This is your passport for trying something new, and if that something new just happens to enhance learning, you’ve made a change for good. Think now of ways in which technology enables your environment. How has technology redefined the tasks you do and enhanced the way that you work? Now take a moment to think about the ways you are redefining learning for your early years children.

Since 2012, I have been enabling our learning environment with Apple technology, embedding apps into the curriculum and redefining tasks with new ways of working. Children use Book Creator to author Maths Journals, recording their maths language in multi-modal books. They use animation apps to bring stories to life.

We move our art work from physical to digital and back again, enhancing workflow with photography and movie making. Technology is commonplace in our classroom and it enhances traditional ways of working by bringing a new, previously impossible, scope to learning. Not only does technology enhance the way in which we learn, it is also a way to share our learning with our connected classes through FaceTime calls and video blogs.

Here are some quick wins and ideas to enhance learning with mobile technology and redefine some much-loved best practices from the Foundation Stage…

1. Pic Collage (Free)

Think of that time when you take your class on a shape hunt. It’s an exciting experience but how do the children show what they know? Usually with a clipboard and tick sheet, a drawing exercise or the adult making post-it notes. Now imagine each child having a camera, photographing the shapes they see. Pic Collage does just that on a shape hunt: children photograph the shapes they recognise and pin them to their board. A selfie to show it’s theirs makes it even more personal too! Pic Collage is a great tool for children to document their learning in a more personalised design and it enhances your shape hunt as the task is redefined by photography.

What to do
• Select ‘Freestyle’.

• Tap anywhere on screen.

• Select the green photos icon.

• Select camera.

• Snap your photographs.

• Select photographs and tap the blue ‘tick’.

• Arrange photographs on screen.

• Tap the + and try out some backgrounds or even add text.

2. Photo Booth (Free, pre-installed)

Colouring in and drawing at your mark making stations is commonplace, but how do you bring challenge to those who continue to draw and colour? Show your class how to capture kaleidoscope patterns in Photo Booth and use these photographs to design unique ideas for their colourings. Either let the children walk around to capture these fascinating patterns from their environment or lay out those loose parts to create some extraordinary images from the ordinary pattern making.

This activity works well for festivals too, giving children their own pattern to design a Rangoli-inspired art work or traditional Chinese New Year lanterns. Moving from digital to physical with art work enhances design possibilities and helps children have their own ideas in this area of learning.

What to do
• Select Kaleidoscope.

• Use the camera switch button lower left to turn on the back camera.

• Take photographs.

• Show photographs on screen or print for design work.

• Try out the X-Ray and heat filters too; they are great!

3. Puppet Pals (Free)
Storytelling is the backbone of good Foundation Stage provision. We centre so much of our learning around a rich language environment which shows a love for books. Our children are always talking, developing narratives and adapting stories from their favourite structures. But how are we capturing their storytelling and what impact does it have on writing? Puppet Pals is a simple animation app where children select characters and backgrounds to record their own puppet show on screen. Working collaboratively, children move their characters around the settings they choose and tell their authentic stories. What’s more, Puppet Pals makes good use of the camera so that children can add themselves into their stories too. Puppet Pals redefines storytelling as the nature of a mobile device means they can capture their own story settings from out and about. Imagine going to the woodland workshop, children capturing their story settings and using these images right away in the classroom to create their story. What a way to bring purpose to writing too. When watching their story back, children can begin writing their story books.

What to do
• Select ‘start here’.

• Select pre-installed characters or tap ‘import own characters’ to use the camera to photograph your own.

• Tap next and select backgrounds; again, you can import your own.

• Tap next and begin recording your puppet show.

• Remember you can photograph drawings, artwork, models and real places you’ve visited!

4. Number Pieces (Free)

It’s time to learn how to count, match numerals to quantity and count out from a larger group. And it’s time to learn to do that up to 20! Number Pieces gives children access to unlimited counters and counting frames to practise these skills, and features a pen tool for recording their mathematical ideas and customisable colours and counter designs.

Imagine giving every child on the carpet 100 counters each and asking them to find different ways of making 10, or even 20. This task would be almost impossible before Number Pieces. There probably aren’t enough counters in the school for every child to have 100, not to mention the preparation this would take. Number Pieces gives every child in your maths group the tools they need to show what numeracy skills they know.

What to do
• Use the left-hand bar to select counters in 1s, 5s or 10s. There are two colours of counters available for addition/subtraction activities.

• Use the counter grids to place counters in 5s, 10s, 20s, 100 squares.

• In the bottom right there are options to change the colour or style of counter – you can even select ladybird and penguin counters!

• Along the bottom menu there are tools for mark making.

5. Sneak (£1.49)

Sneak as quietly as you can to capture that creature feasting on your bait! This game is a physical challenge that makes use of the inbuilt microphone and camera to track movement. If you crawl too quickly you will scare the beasty away! Sneak is a great challenge for children who need to practise gross motor skills and also turn-taking. As an intervention, Sneak will give purpose to practise core gross motor skills by gamifying the experience, and it also teaches children how to be still. After all, the aim is to capture the creature so you need to hold still and be patient as your sneak towards your prey!

What to do
• Stand the iPad against a wall, at floor level, and open the app.

• Select for the monster to ‘see’ you and/or ‘hear’  you (which enables the camera and/or the microphone).

• Choose the difficulty level.

• Select the bait for the creator.

• A countdown appears, from five to zero.

• Move away from the iPad and hide!

• Creep towards the monster, as quietly and carefully as you can. When you get close enough, tap the creature to capture it.

• The camera will take your photo in action!

Marc Faulder is a Foundation Stage teacher and Apple Distinguished Educator. To read more from Marc, visit his blog at enabling-environments.co.uk

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