Scottish Learning Festival 2008

Only made it to the last afternoon of the Scottish Learning Festival due to teaching and other work commitments. Made it to one presentation on using a computer game to help children develop a winning mentality – and a set of psychological skills which can help lead to success. I also bumped into Derek Robertson who revealed that the first results from LTS’ 32 school trial of Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training (16 test, 16 control) have been released – and having had a look at the results they are very encouraging indeed.

More on both, below. ‘The Winning Game’ is a fairly simple game (now suite of games) which use in-game coaching and post-game reviews/debriefs to help students develop skills which can lead to more successful learning. For example, after each game students have four basic questions to answer:

  • What did I want to happen?
  • What actually happened?
  • What caused this gap/success?
  • What can I do to improve on this?

And the same approach was also extended for use away from the game – for reviewing performance on English essays, for example. Some of the students spoke at the event, and one noted that she does now use this method to help her in other tasks – including ones outside of school. Having students develop the skills and then applying them outside of school is one of the goals of the project, so that was promising.

A first pilot has completed with Perth High School, and the game developed to address a number of concerns and comments. Apparently the game has helped high and moderate achievers better than low achievers – Jim Scott the head teacher noted that convincing students who already identify with failure that they can learn how to be successful is a challenging task.

The Winning Game was the result of a collaboration between a number of bodies and individuals, including:

The Winning Scotland Foundation, a charity whose goal it is to “encourage more Scots to fulfil their potential and become winners”; Yehuda Shinar, author of ‘Think Like a Winner‘ and past advisor to the England Rugby Squad and the Scottish swimming team (amongst others); Learning Teaching Scotland; and game developers TPLD.

A new pilot is now running with (I think) six schools.

As an aside, I would note that this process seems very similar in principle to ‘Personal Development Planning’, which is being enthusiastically adopted in the FE and HE education sectors in the UK at the moment.

Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training in schools

As noted, Derek Robertson told me that LTS had revealed the first results from their extended study into the use of Brain Training on the Nintendo DS. 32 schools took part in the study, 16 test and 16 control. The test group students used Brain Training for 30 minutes per day every day for nine weeks. Control group students followed their usual practice.

Both groups improved in their maths accuracy over the nine week period – with the test group having a gain that was statistically significantly higher than that of the control group. The mean improvement was around 50% higher than that of the control group. Gains seemed to be higher for the lower attainment students (preliminary analysis). Both groups also improved in their speed of computations. Again, the test group’s improvement was statistically significantly higher than the control group’s.

A number of additional side benefits are noted in the report – some of which will require further analysis of the data. One notable observations is a “Slight – but statistically significant – improvement in attitude towards school in the experimental group, but not in controls”.

The announcement of the release is on the Consolarium blog, and the summary report can be found here.

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