New forms of interactive digital learning and classroom-to-home connectivity are transforming early years education in New South Wales thanks to a revolutionary approach to teaching and learning pioneered at the University of Wollongong.
Every child, parent and teacher participating in the state-wide UOW Early Start program will have access to the latest in digital learning and connectivity tools following an agreement between the University and educational software providers.
The Early Start program is being promoted and developed as a UOW initiative to transform lives through education, based on the concept that that every child, student, parent, teacher and community can reach their full potential if given the right tools and education.
As part of Early Start, each of the 38 Engagement Centres in New South Wales – from Bega in the south of the state to tweed Heads in the north – will receive an IT bundle that includes interactive learning and teaching tools such as the smart table and interactive whiteboards.
The integrated IT system will also connect each of the centres with each other providing educators and families with a window into their child’s development while providing children access to a suite of educational packages and learning applications.
In addition, an agreement with commercial partners Skoobo and Kinderlopp will provide teach, learning and connectivity software in the 38 participating centres.
The Skoolbo learning and teaching software will be available free of charge and will assist children to gain and develop literacy and numeracy skills through game-play on interactive whiteboard and smart screens, while at the same time providing teachers and parents with a range of data collection tools that will assist in improving the learning experience for children.
Kinderloop is a smart phone application that connects parents with preschools allowing them to see photos and updates direct form the classroom in real time.
Big Fat Smile CEO Bill Feld said: “Early Start is all about connections. Families are at the centre of every child’s learning. Kinderloop is facilitating connections to the extended family in a new and engaging way”.
Jane Morgan, of the Big Fat Smile group’s Bellambi Point Community Preschool, said the digital learning tools used there as part of a pilot program over the past two and a half years were leading to improved literacy and numeracy results in children.
“We knew Early Start could make a difference, but we didn’t realise it could happen so quickly,” Ms Morgan said.
“The successful transition of last year’s kindergarten group to school shows the difference already made. Children are now able to read before they go to school and that wasn’t happening before.
“It also increases the parents confidence in what the children are learning and this is leading to better attendance at primary school.”
Kinderloop co-founder Dan Day said the software was created out of a desire to help busy parents connect with their children throughout the day and to assist educators capture the developmental journey.
“We hear it again and again from parents: We drop our kids off at preschool in the morning, and spend the day wondering what they’re doing,” Mr Day said.
“Our mission is to make it easy and fun for preschools and care providers to capture those special moments in their care and have an informed and engaged community of parents, all centred around the kids.
The revolutionary approach to early years education includes a state-of-the-art $44-million facility currently under construction at UOW and designed for teaching, research and community engagement.
The building will incorporate the Early Start Discovery Space, which encourages the active participation of children and their families in a range of learning experiences.
(Source: University of Wollongong)