Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion vis­its Swift Cur­rent school for math iPad game demon­stra­tion

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Swift Current - BY MATTHEW LIEBEN­BERG— mlieben­berg@prairiepost.com

The Saskatchewan Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion has de­vel­oped an in­ter­ac­tive iPad game that en­cour­ages Grade 1 stu­dents to ex­plore math.

Deputy Premier and Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion Gor­don Wyant and Swift Cur­rent MLA Everett Hind­ley vis­ited a Grade 1 class at O.M. Ir­win School in Swift Cur­rent on Oct. 18 for a demon­stra­tion of the new iPad app.

“It was re­ally in­ter­est­ing to watch the kids learn about math and hav­ing that tech­nol­ogy in front of them to help them learn,” Wyant said af­ter­wards. “They were pretty ex­cited about it and it was very in­ter­est­ing to see them in­ter­act with the tech­nol­ogy and learn­ing some­thing that’s pretty im­por­tant. So it was pretty cool.”

The Askî's Pond app is part of the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion's Help Me Talk About Math en­gage­ment tool. It was de­vel­oped with the sup­port of the Saska­toon based dig­i­tal de­sign agency, zu.

The app helps stu­dents to con­nect the math in­struc­tion in their class­room with their learn­ing at home, which pro­motes on­go­ing de­vel­op­ment of nu­mer­acy skills.

“It’s an in­ter­ac­tive tool to help learn,” he said. “Tech­nol­ogy is all around us, so it’s pretty im­por­tant.”

The in­ter­ac­tive game re­in­forces con­tent from the Grade 1 math cur­ricu­lum and also in­te­grates First Na­tions and Métis con­tents and ways of know­ing. Wyant noted that Saskatchewan is the first prov­ince to in­tro­duce Treaty ed­u­ca­tion in class­rooms and it is there­fore im­por­tant for stu­dents to un­der­stand the his­tory and cul­tural as­pects of the prov­ince.

“It’s one thing to talk about re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and I think we need to un­der­stand that when we talk about rights, we need to talk about re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and re­spon­si­bil­ity comes from learn­ing what those re­spon­si­bil­i­ties are as ci­ti­zens,” he said. “Teach­ing those in the early years is pretty im­por­tant, be­cause they’ll take that for­ward and they’ll con­tinue to en­hance that through cur­ric­ula de­vel­op­ment.”

The app was eval­u­ated dur­ing a pi­lot pro­ject in provin­cial and First Na­tions schools and it was suc­cess­fully launched in Septem­ber. The in­ten­tion is to roll it out to class­rooms across the prov­ince.

“There's cer­tainly fund­ing avail­able through the fund­ing model to all the school di­vi­sions with re­spect to en­hanc­ing tech­nol­ogy within in­di­vid­ual schools within school di­vi­sions,” he said. “So we leave it to the school di­vi­sions in terms of how those bud­gets are rolled out, but if we're go­ing to use tech­nol­ogy, if we're go­ing to em­brace it to help the ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ence for chil­dren, then we have to be a lot more con­scious in terms of how much money is ac­tu­ally ded­i­cated to that tool.”

The Askî char­ac­ter in the app is a tur­tle that lives at a pond. Askî is a Cree word for earth. The Help Me Talk About Math app fea­tures the same char­ac­ters that were cre­ated for the Help Me Tell My Story iPad assess­ment tool, which can be used by pre-kinder­garten and kinder­garten teach­ers to eval­u­ate oral lan­guage de­vel­op­ment.

O.M. Ir­win Vice-Prin­ci­pal Cur­tis Biem, who was pre­vi­ously a math coach in the Chi­nook School Divi­sion, watched the stu­dents while they en­gaged with the app dur­ing the class­room demon­stra­tion. He noted that they were able to use the app in­de­pen­dently and the game as­pect was mo­ti­va­tional.

“I think it’s a real move­ment in ed­u­ca­tion,” he said about the gam­i­fi­ca­tion for­mat of the app. “You can gam­ify things in the class­room, but when it comes al­ready done on the app it’s so much eas­ier for the teacher to im­ple­ment that rather than have to go through all of the pro­cesses of build­ing your own games and get­ting those out to kids. If it’s in this lit­tle pack­age and it all works, that’s a great tool for teach­ers.”

He em­pha­sized that tech­nol­ogy is a use­ful tool, but just one as­pect of the process to achieve learn­ing goals in class­rooms.

“We can’t ab­di­cate our re­spon­si­bil­ity to tech­nol­ogy and the rea­son we have teach­ers is be­cause they’re pro­fes­sion­als and they know what they’re do­ing,” he said.

“So when there’s some­thing that can be a tool to as­sist them, that’s a good use, but a good app is still just a part of a ma­chine and doesn’t take the place of a teacher. It’s a tool in a good teacher’s hand, but if kids are do­ing some ex­tra prac­tice on their own or if they’re mo­ti­vated to­wards the math that’s a good thing too.”

Pho­tos by Matthew Lieben­berg

Swift Cur­rent MLA Everett Hind­ley (at left) and Chi­nook School Divi­sion Di­rec­tor of Ed­u­ca­tion Kyle McIntyre talk to Grade 1 stu­dents at O.M. Ir­win School dur­ing the demon­stra­tion of a new math iPad game, Oct. 18.

Deputy Premier and Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion Gor­don Wyant watches a Grade 1 stu­dent's in­ter­ac­tion with the new math iPad game, Oct. 18.

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