How I Use It
I have been using Skoolbo for a year with my 7-8 year old students. My class is very diverse in cultural makeup and ability, and all students find it highly engaging and motivating. Students with autism and English as another language are particularly keen to play. Skoolbo is not designed to be an all encompassing curriculum tool but targets essential reading and numeracy skills that underpin learning. That is what is so appealing; my students work at their own levels, practising and reinforcing fundamental skills. This allows me to maximise group learning opportunities. Some students maybe working with me, focusing on concepts and strategies; others are playing Skoolbo, consolidating or extending their skill base; another group may be working independently on a task that applies a recent learning focus; whilst some others have selected a favourite learning game. Skoolbo helps me to teach students in a variety of ways. I have some students who find writing extremely difficult- learning like this, without a written component, is a joy for them. I run an inquiry based /concept centred classroom but I am always seeking ways to give my students the necessary time to consolidate their learning and practise essential skills. I place a lot of faith in the use of Skoolbo, because I know the students are working through questions that are relevant to them personally. Sometimes they say that they don't know some of the new words that they are being exposed to, and I have shown them how to make choices regarding their answers, and to learn from their mistakes. They start seeing patterns in words and numbers. Throughout the year, I have often provided my students with the opportunity to work on Skoolbo for about 15-20 minutes, 1-3 times per week. I tend to use it more often with students needing specific support in learning. Other times, I have stepped up playing to about 15 minutes 3-4 times per week. With a recent World Cup challenge, my students have become even more interested, playing at home and at school, and it has been a daily routine. I don't mind that it moves between reading and maths questions; we simply use it during Reading time and Maths time. My students wrote the following feedback early on when I wanted to know what they liked and what they thought they were learning.
IN ROOM 19 WE HAVE BEEN USING SKOOLBO TO PRACTISE OUR MATHS AND LITERACY SKILLS. SOME CHILDREN HAVE BEEN AWARDED CERTIFICATES FOR THOUSANDS OF CORRECT ANSWERS.
Quinn “I like the playing the game with the dice - it’s a running race.”
Maia " I got better at telling the time.”
Matthew “It has helped me to learn more words.”
Jeet “It’s helping me learn division.”
Isaac “ I learned to get faster at subtraction.”
Yousif “ I learned how to solve maths questions.”
Nikita “I like being a superhero and earning prizes.”
Jacqueline. “It has improved my Maths skills, like subtraction and addition.”
Katie “I learned more about timetables.”
Marius “ I learned more about spelling patterns.”
Louie “ When I write I can now write words that I learned in Skoolbo”
Nuirira “ Skoolbo has helped me get better at number sentences.”
Leo “Skoolbo helped me to learn my doubles.”
Jacob “ I found out that I need more practice at division.”
Marius “I now know my left and right really well.”
Jasmine “I like choosing the prizes.”
Nurira “It’s great to buy boosts in the shop.”
Nikita “ I like putting new things in my Skoolbo house.”
Maia “ I like flying through different places in the games.”
Issac “My favourite part is turning into a superhero.”
Jeet “ I like being a superhero.”
Matthew “I like designing my Skoolbo house.”
Jacob “ Its great to have zooming helicopter.”
Caitlyn “Sometimes I see the names of my classmates in my games!”
Isaac “ I like creating my own avatar.”
Katie “I like racing with other people.”
A new part of the programme has been launched in the last couple of weeks - Zippy Shake, and the students' avatars appear on the big screen in my room and we dance along to the music and moves shown. It has great potential for fitness and getting students moving between learning sessions. They absolutely love it.
I would prefer to see the review heading changed to Skoolbo: skill building through fun. I am pleased to see that these field notes are able to be attached to the Common Sense Graphite Review because they capture the reality. I was quite concerned to see that the initial review made the statement, "Students might find the fast-paced activities fun at first, but the novelty will wear off." A review should have a firm, factual base instead of speculation. I am happy to say that my students have played over the whole school year and have not lost their initial motivation and engagement. I also have evidence from this year to disagree with the statement, "Desktop and tablet versions sport flashy graphics, but these special effects are all for show: They don't support meaningful student learning." The brilliant graphics do enhance learning, because the students want to play, and playing is learning. They receive positive reinforcement with rewards that are contemporary and in their world - extras for their avatars and upgrades of planes and items. The biggest reward for correct answers achieved seems to be becoming a Superbo and the students play wearing a superhero outfit for a period of time. These inclusions are highly effective motivators and students want to be accurate in their answers- that's how they succeed when playing. I have also printed off their certificates and included them in their progress folders. The students love seeing the names of other children in their races and this makes the use of Skoolbo quite social as they chat about their latest experiences. They do answer questions for 60 seconds, at their own pace but I see no real emphasis on competitiveness, just a race type environment - its not too bad when you can only come 1st, 2nd or 3rd! Probably one of my favourite aspects to the programme is that students are simply answering questions to help build skills, but they feel like they are in a game environment. Nothing speeds up or demands quick mouse skills. They are not bombarded with irrelevant distractions - these are my pet hates with other programmes. In conclusion, I use Skoolbo for what it is, a support programme for building fundamental skills. In reference to the initial review, it does have a spiralling algorithm and when I go to my teacher dashboard I can see individual results and identify areas that I can incorporate into my teaching sessions. At times the titles of areas are not perfectly clear on the exact skill set but then I go into the contents and can play a quick game to gain more detail. Rather than criticising Skoolbo for what it isn't, I would like teachers to embrace it for what it is; your students will. And let's also remind ourselves about one important other point - it is free for students.