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