Playing, ICTs and Learning: Three for the price of one!

A child in English class deeply engaged in the ESL learning activity TYO has long had a reputation with Nabulsi children for being fun and promoting play. But this session, they're getting a good deal, one might say three for the price of one. That is playing, learning English and using ICTs.

Contrary to popular belief, playing isn't just about having fun. For children, playing is one of the primary ways that they learn. Many elements of higher order thinking are involved with play, including problem solving, experimentation, tactile learning, creativity, team work, cooperation, independence, evaluation, and reflection.

Furthermore, classroom pedagogy has moved beyond children sitting in rows, not talking and listening to the teacher. Nowadays, interaction, class discussion and play (with educational outcomes) are considered best practice. One of the best ways to cover all of those aspects, as well as prepare students for the 21st century world, is to use ICTs in the classroom.

Just this week, thanks to generous support from the Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation, TYO proudly opened their 3rd computer room, meaning that there are over 30 computers at the center for students to use. The ESL community has created a multitude of online games for us to utilize, which has been critical in engaging students. Students are thrilled that we, their teachers, are allowing them to play computer games, and we are thrilled to see them so engaged whilst increasing their understanding of English concepts and improving their technical computer skills. It's a win-win situation.

The excitement gained from the play on computers is due to many factors. A change of environment and personnel re-engages the children in the activity. Last week we were teaching the difference between the singular and plural seen in ‘this’ and ‘these.' To cement this grammar for the children, in groups of three, they made a 5 slide quiz to present to their class. Prior to the computer activity 20% of children were confident with the singular and plural, post the activity 90% had grasped the difference.

The fun play with technology was crucial to this increase; those who had no prior knowledge were so excited by the creative effects of Powerpoint and the large bank of humorous images on the internet, that they absorbed the difference between singular and plural simultaneously. Those students who were already confident with the grammar, were also challenged to find more creative images on the internet for obscure vocabulary and then use these discoveries to manipulate sentence structure to challenge their fellow class mates in the quiz.

The use of computers was excellent for providing a wide range of activities to uniquely challenge kids of all levels. The play with technology also created a multi layer communication between the class. Beginning with personal ideas, then communicating them to their groups of three, and finally sharing this with the whole class, means that the humour and fun of the games are passed along the chain, whilst the grammatical focus is reflected upon in three styles.

Children at TYO relish in the opportunity to use ICTs in the class

-TYO Interns, Celia and Mariella

This program - as part of Student Training and Employment Program (STEP!) - is sponsored in part by the Abdul Hamid Shoman Foundation.