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A story starts with the roll of the dice. At least it can with these Rory’s Story Cubes I ran into at Blijfwijs.nl. Wonderful idea to stimulate children’s fantasy and get them talking.

Tell stories from the icons on the dice. A spark of imagination.

Tell stories from the icons on the dice. A spark of imagination.

It brings me back to the project at Waag Society to create digital building blocks for stories.

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Dutch children used to learn to read with these wooden boards (leesplankje) that display a fixed row of words and pictures.

Picture taken by Admiraals Weblog on Flickr.com.

Dutch reading board, photographed by Admiraals Weblog on Flickr.com.

To make learning with the combined pictures and words more individual, Biggle Toys has developed a digital reading board called i-blocks. Children can spell the words they see and will then hear the words pronounced as feedback.

It helps to connect the different senses: children hear the words and see them at the same time. An advantage is that children do not need teacher supervision while using the i-blocks. It can thus be used to provide extra training for those children who need it.

Picture taken from biggle-toys.com.

i-blocks material.

The concept resembles the ideas by Waag Society to develop intuitive, physical toys to support spelling education by combining sight with sound, as worked out in the Spelling Factory.

Screenshot taken from codecadamy.com

The six badges I earned after one afternoon of coding.

Codecadamy is the easiest way to learn how to code. It’s interactive, fun, and you can do it with your friends.”

Are you keeping up with the new developments in the educational profession?

In the Netherlands there is now an index to keep track of progress of teachers. On a voluntary basis, but the aim is to promote the use of the 160 hours norm. School teachers are expected to spend 160 hours a year on their professional development, such as pedagogical skills. Whether this index will really be a stimulation for training, is discussed in this article by Intermediair (in Dutch).

Picture by Cliff1066tm on flickr.com

Classroom with Three Figures by Lavern Keley (picture by cliff1066tm).

There might be chances here for e-learning courses to help keep teachers up to date. It allows them to spend their time on training in a flexible way and to follow a personal trajectory.

I am currently starting work on building online training courses and platforms for teachers at OnderwijsNu.

Gamestar Mechanic: A game to teach 9-15 year olds about games. It is a media literacy education tool, as well as a great way to train children to think analytically and to design their own games. It can be used as part of the curriculum in schools.

Children do not have to learn to code, an obstacle when they want to start making games. Instead they play a character that wants to become a game designer.

In the story, the aspiring designer is presented with broken levels because there is a rogue game designer at work. Through these levels, students are presented with game mechanics: Why are certain levels challenging to play, while others are no fun? How do you solve problems in games?

The game was developed at the Institute of Play, home to game expert Katie Salen.

Creationary is one of LEGO’s new games. It is a Pictionary game in which you build instead of draw. Playing against children or against adults was a totally different experience!

Lego's creationary

Creationary in the box.

Children:
Start with the easiest levels, keeping the best for last
Take pleasure from the build, even if their subject is not guessed correctly
Change teams or continue alone once team members leave
Did not notice that the adults forgot to award points to successful builders, proud as they were when their subject was guessed.

Adults:
Go for the higher levels, to challenge others and earn themselves more points
Get frustrated when their subject is guessed too fast
Are so concentrated on building that they do not hear correct guesses
Want to practice before playing to learn how to produce sophisticated builds
Discussed changing the rules to make the game more fair/fun

Time flies: I came across this blog that documents the progress of the StoryBOX project at Waag Society.

Things have changed drastically since I left for my travels to Australia. The unit now looks like a factory instead of blocks and incorporates handwriting.

Picture taken from storybox.waag.org
Picture taken from storybox.waag.org
Picture taken from storybox.waag.org

Playing with words in a factory of sounds.

Objective: Develop a tactile toy for children between 6-7 years to learn language. Allowing them to ‘catch’ and ‘order’ words. This is one of the results of an evening of brainstorming and paper prototyping:

Modular telescope prototype.

It is a tool that is made up of different modules, allowing the children to capture objects, showing them to their classmates and telling a story about them. Turning the closed tubes up and down facilitates guessing games based on the sound the caught treasure makes. Other parts allow the taking of photographs, or have a display to show the pictures that are taken. Combining different hollow containers (object in display-tube placed behind a window-part) creates a cumulative experience of several aspects of one object-word.

The module sizes allow the sliding of parts into each other, creating one single tube that can be easily carried with a strap on the back. Connecting the corresponding cylinders allows for the creation of a network (with branching elements) enabling a game of sending words (‘Chinese whisper’), sorting objects in different categories and racing games along the coloured path.

Tested out some projects at the inspiration meeting/ open day of Waag Society’s Creative Learning Lab:

Games Atelier

During the afternoon we went across the bridge to play a GPS game at the Java Island. Being just short of phones, I shared one with a visitor who was interested in the technique because she worked with teenagers who had difficulties with learning.

The route was laid out as a free play along multiple locations with 7Scenes. Taking pictures and answering questions about the surrounding we moved along the streets. Getting into the game spirit, we tried to avoid other players when asking pedestrians for answers, while attempting to take a look at the actions of our competitors to learn what we had to do next.

Photo's that were uploaded during the play-time.

In sharing the phone, my teammate was more than happy to let me to the trial-and-error process of finding out the workings of the program. It was quite clear, although we did miss some points in not answering the question when trying to edit an answer or taking a picture. In the mean time she could imagine how her students would do the same.

We experienced some euphoria when at the end of the twenty minutes we discovered we were one of the groups with the most points.

Animaatje (Zand 2.0)

Drawing in the sand, following its relief, letting animated dots follow your tracks and all this is presented as a do-it-yourself device complete with manual and downloadable software. Intriguing how you can make a three dimensional drawing after building towers and holes in the sand.

Drawing in the sand with Animaatje.

Mijn naam is Haas
“My name is Hare” is a serious game that can aid children from 4-6 years in learning a language through exploring Hare’s world. I was thrilled by the easiness of drawing in numerous animals and plants into his surrounding, though wondering about the stimulation of children’s creativity: what would happen if they would be able to draw in trees and birds of their own choice and shapes?

Impression of Mijn naam is Haas.

ScratchWorx
After overcoming some nerves about breaking the device, I enjoyed the interaction of ScratchWorx, especially playing with the visuals. Looking up and down at my own mix-table screens and buttons and at the screen, I was able to experiment with and find out about the possibilities.

Impression of projected visuals and device.

Great “how to” website which teaches you step by step to make it yourself. From things you cannot do without to stuff you had never thought about but will make your life so much better.

Screenshot from Instructables.com

Tweets (Dutch and English)