Using technology to learn through play in a supportive environment

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Supportive environments enable the success of Learning Gains through Play (LGP). There are various factors contributing to this success.

The affordance of technology has the potential to change classroom practice. However to enable successful integration, it is important to mobilise the senior management team, teacher colleagues across grades, resources, and supportive school environments to enable the successful implementation of technology in the classroom.

As witnessed in the LGP project, participating teachers were motivated and encouraged to change the teacher-learner practices through the positive feedback from their colleagues, head of departments and principals.

Support in the form of resources such as LGP workshops for the senior management teams and teachers. Classroom visits  by LGP facilitators to observe lessons, regular feedback and recommendations for appropriate apps and games to teachers, kept the project alive over its three years of implementation

Although support leads to improved learning gains, the acceptance and appropriation of the LGP project in practical ways applicable to teaching in the classroom and in the schooling environment also proved to be a success.

As a consequence, school B3, a participant in the LGP project exemplified how learning gains were achieved in a supportive environment when introducing learning through play.

Enthusiasm and visionary leadership by the school principal inspired the staff to pursue a long-term vision following the introduction of learning through play. Her hands-on approach made a huge difference in influencing teachers, even the ones sceptical to accept teaching using technology or lessons to be monitored.

The principal was also able to get support of the school governing body that later financed the transportation of teachers to attend professional development workshops.

As a school with 1300 learners and 36 teachers, the principal wanted technology in all classrooms. When the LGP project ended, she went as far as devising a plan to use the LGP teachers to teach the new Grade one educators on how to use technology in their lessons. All of this was done to support the continuation of learning through play even after the project study had ended.

The widespread use of technology is embedded and is a normalised practice for children who have access to technology. Because of this, the principal knew learners would be very receptive to technology in the classroom and worried that technological skills of children could surpass that of teachers.

As a result, to offer support and resources, the principal asked for volunteers to mentor the teachers. She regularly sat in Grade R and Grade one classrooms for lesson observations as teachers used technology. In these visits, she used the opportunity to applaud and encourage teachers and learners. She had been part of the team working together with teachers in formulating assignments and monitoring attendance at the SchoolNet professional development workshops.

Second in command to the principal, the deputy, also played a supporting role in the success of the LGP project. His role came in the form of maintenance and security of the tablets. He identified the lack of digital literacy of teachers as the biggest challenge for the project.

But was eager to point out that a major contributor for the school’s success, had been the analysis of results and sharing outcomes with teachers. The sharing of teacher achievements propel them to aspire to do even better. He also credited officials from the provincial department who extended their support and role even beyond working hours.

School B3’s participation in the LGP project exemplifies what needs to be done for a successful implementation of technology for learning through play in the classroom. The school began the LGP project as the lowest performing school and it ended with the school topping the list of achievers in the circuit.

A lesson learned from the highest achieving school was that teachers met opportunities for change with enthusiasm. The positive feedback from the senior management team created an environment for a supportive team to achieve success.

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