Mingoville Commentary

Can Schools Really Be Locked Out In Today’s Digital Age?

In the midst of the on-going schools lockout in Denmark, we received an interesting email from an inquisitive 6th grader this week, Albert Einstein, he candidly calls himself.

Little “Albert Einstein” writes: “Hej Skolemat. Jeg synes at overslag hos buller er lidt for svært. Min far og jeg var nød til at være sammen om at lave den med en lommeregner og papir. (han er ingeniør) jeg ville bare lige sige det.”
Skolemat emailWhat struck me was the commanding level of critical inquiry in his email even if his feedback remains subjective to each his own but, it reveals how a child does not take his learning journey any less serious just because it is not in a “school”.

This brings me back to the bigger questions: What exactly does a school lockout mean in today’s digital age? Can teachers – and education – really be locked out?

Schools compounds may be locked up, teachers may be denied from teaching, but in today’s digital age, “school” never closes because what is “school” is no longer clearly defined by mere human, physical compounds and boundaries.

For all the policy debate ensuing in Denmark, the irony is that, education is not locked out even as teachers are. It actually reveals a paradigm shift in motion.

Since the schools lockout, Mingoville has seen a surge in interest, downloads and purchases in our educational apps on the iPad in particular – as of today – more than 30% of the Top 20 iPad apps in the Danish Education Store belongs to us.

“It tells us that with a schools lockout, parents in Denmark are left to proactively seek out for their kids alternative learning means or should we say, alternative teachers to facilitate learning”, reveals Mingoville’s CEO, Stephan Stephensen.

At this point, it is critical to point out that a schools lockout is not uncommon elsewhere in the world, though, for very different (often unforeseen) reasons.

Just a decade ago, the SARS outbreak in Asia had forced schools to be closed, then there was the H1N1 epidemic just a few years back that had schools shutting too.

I was teaching in a pre-tertiary institution in Singapore when the H1N1 epidemic called for a school “lockout”, and the lockout had to happen in less than 24 hours.

Fortunately, I was teaching in a digital education-ready school. Instructions of e-learning plans were sent to teachers right away. For the rest of the week, lessons and assessments were conducted digitally, teachers simply “worked” from home.

In a digital education age, the role of teachers ought to have taken a big shift. And perhaps central to the debate should be about such paradigm shifts in Denmark.

Stephan said: “The lockout reveals to us that even as 30% of schools in Denmark are using our digital learning products but the role of teachers have not shifted to truly facilitate the digital age. There is a gap between rhetoric and practice.”

Instead, burden has fallen on parents to stand in the gap to work out contingency plans for kids, as we saw a massive surge in private purchases of our products.

“This intrigued us as one would expect schools in today’s digital age to be better equipped to ensure learning will not be disrupted. All it would have taken was a digital-learning contingency plan and the teachers to facilitate it,” he concluded.

While adults fight their battles, let us not undermine a child’s ability to be serious self-directed digital learners — if this should add perspective to the debate, too.

Because in today’s digital age, education never stops. The show will go on.

Then what – really – are we fighting about?

Jan Lin jl@mingoville.com

Gamification in Education – Unveiling its Potential

Mashable recently published an intriguing article on the use of “gamification” in education, highlighting its success, which sits perfectly with Mingoville’s learning philosophy in creating our “learn-through-play” e-learning products that are used in classrooms in several countries today.

As advocators of (virtual) gamification in education, Mingoville embraces a learning philosophy where learning is both self-directed and learner-centered in designing our e-learning platforms – Mingoville English and Mondiso Maths – both have tasted success.

However, while Mingoville English and Mondiso Math universes both had gamification applied in their development process, we went one step further, and have found the success of our platforms to hinge on the high quality of animation characters and real voice actors.

Developing them, took over a million dollars but we believe it’s worth it. As it currently stands, our belief stems from understanding how gamification in education offers a holistic and cohesive learning approach as online learning materials are often fragmented and text-based.

Our cohesive and dialogue-based game design approach not only enables a learner to begin to take ownership of their learning at a young age but is also an excellent trigger for focus and for lifelong learning. True learning is often inspired, gamification in education can do just that.

Yet as one of the pioneers in virtual gamification in education, we say to reach the full potential of gamification, virtually at least, requires for game developers to pay attention to the quality of the multi-sensory experience in developing its equally high quality cohesive content.

Mashable.com: Does Gamification Help Classroom Learning?

The Evolution of Technology in Classrooms

I remember when I was growing up, heading to the school’s computer room for an hour of IT activities each week was a highlight of my school week.

Fast forward two decades on, it is interesting to note that not only do students find having a tech-savvy day at school a luxury, teachers are buying in to “actively using technology to make their work more effective”.

Technology has evolved from being an extra-curricular activity to what teachers are using to “facilitate and enhance the learning and teaching processes”. This evolution aligns with Mingoville’s heartbeat no less.

When we launched Mingoville e-learning English virtual world in 2007, it was the beginning of our commitment to position our products as the preferred literacy development supplementary tools for teachers across the world.

We achieved a milestone in 2009 when we teamed up with the Chilean Ministry of Education to implement Mingoville English e-learning in schools.

If you are from a school, a city, a province or a country searching for tech tools in your classrooms, we may have exactly what you need. Write to us.

NBCLatino: Get to know the tech tools used in your child’s classroom

To a new level of ICT – Beyond just a technology invasion

While there is no doubt that technology is invading classrooms at lightning speed across the world, the integration of e-learning curriculums with tech remains in its early days. Any new machine for education is increasingly only as meaningful as the content it offers.

At this point, we remember already back in 2009, Mingoville had teamed up with the Portuguese government (Ministry of Education) to integrate our award-winning Mingoville English e-learning program for children on half a million Intel’s Classmate PCs in Portugal.

The Portugese Government had conceived an ambitious and realistic plan to provide all school children with an affordable (or in some cases completely free of charge) laptop. Besides Portugal, 10 laptops were ordered to be sent to Kosovo and 1000 pieces to Botswana.

It feels a revival of some sort lately, or potentially an aggressive trend in ICT for education on the rise, with Apple’s education-focused iPad and News Corp’s development of an education curriculum to integrate into their Amplify machine for schools. Exciting times ahead.

This spring, we will be releasing a preschool edition app of our Mingoville English e-learning product, which will be available on iOS and Android. As one of the pioneers in providing ICT English and Math education content, we are definitely ready to be part of the game.

The Power of Play in early Childhood Learning

There is nothing more important than the power of play in early childhood learning. Play is the way that young children learn about the world, be that through social interactions, developing fine motor skills, learning language skills or developing their powers of imagination.

There are no less than 34 different definitions of what play is in the Webster Desk Dictionary of the English Language. These include, but are not limited to:
.       Light, brisk and changing movement (for example pretending to be an animal such as a butterfly)
.       To act or imitate a person or character
.       To employ a piece of equipment (playing with toy bricks as an example)
.       Exercise or activity for amusement (games of tag)
The world of play also encompasses singing silly songs to experiment with language, playing physical games and exploring the world through re-enacting various role-playing scenarios.

Whatever children do, they learn best through play but in recent years a new way to play has come on the scene. There has been a huge increase in the rise of iPad, iPhone and Android apps which are both intuitive and educational and have captivated a whole generation of preschoolers.

For parents who are worried about the amount of “screen time” their youngsters are exposed to the rise of such apps may have some cause for concern. After all, many experts suggest that children under the age of two should be allowed to watch no television at all, with older children being limited on the amount of television they watch. With educational apps, however it is a slightly different story as far as the experts are concerned.

Unlike television watching which is a passive, one way process in which children tend to “zone out” from the reality around them, educational apps encourage an interactive, two way approach to learning. When using educational apps, young children are not only being exposed to the world around them, they are developing their fine motor skills and cognitive abilities in a challenging and stimulating, interactive environment.

Just as with any other kind of toy or entertainment, parents should exercise some control over what they allow their children to play with. There is a vast choice of so-called educational apps on the market so where do you start with choosing the best ones for your child? Ex. do your kid need to learn to tell time, The Mingoville Fun Clock App could be a good app to choose. Or if the kid need to practice math the Apps from Mondiso can be recommended.

There is no way to block inappropriate content from your device so ensure that you only download apps from a trusted developer. User reviews are also a great way to find out whether an app is suitable for your child so make sure you read them before you make your choices. It is also wise to try out the game yourself before handing it over to your child. You want to go for apps which are challenging and entertaining and avoid those which are repetitive, boring and fail to stimulate your child`s imagination.

As with all technology it is a good idea to limit the amount of time your child spends playing with these apps. Despite that, your mobile phone can be used for so much more than merely distracting your child while you are at the supermarket. Choosing educational and entertaining apps can certainly help your child get a head start when it comes to learning about the world through play.

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Mingoville Fun Clock – Learn to tell time

It has newer been more fun for kids to learn to tell time. Some months ago I spoke with a teacher. She told me how disappointed she was. Almost all her students in 3rd grade did not know how to tell time on an analogue clock.

I went home and spoke with our developers. And today we are happy to release a fun and engaging App that can tell children to tell time.

The first edition is in English and Chinese, but more languages are coming. We hope that the English version can be used in ELT, ESL training as well as it contains a movie and some interactive exercises that makes it fun for kids to play with. Listening to the more than thousand audio files recorded by English speaking voice actors also helps their future pronunciation skills. Download the app from App Store. Link kan be found on Fun Clock website

— FEATURES —
• Animation characters talking about the clock – How does the big hand work and how does the small hand work?

• Animation movie showing the relationship between the analogue clock and the digital clock

• Four levels to unlock – Hours, half hours, quarters and minutes

• Certificate – kid earn certificate if all levels are completed. For the kid that can be mailed or shared to others

• Real voice actors with more than a 1000 audio files

• Great graphic

• Many hours fun and educational time

• Mute function for background sounds

— GAMES INCLUDED —

• Build your own clock

• Talking clock

• Move the hands to tell time

• Choose the right clock to make the bus depart

• Tilt the ipad or iphone to move the numbers to the right position on the clock

Hope your kids will enjoy our Fun Clock app :-)

See [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qi0E4bO1Yck[/youtube]

developed with:

Cross-platform Mobile App Development Showcase

Mingoville Sudoku on Android…Thank you Adobe Air

This is really exiting for Us. We are always looking for new platforms to reach our audience. With more and more smartphones coming out, our focus has for a long time been on the Android OS.

As we are participating in the Adobe Air for Android pre-release program, we have been able to access the AIR SDK and the Android Emulator.

We now have the first Mingoville game running on the HTC Hero with Android 2.1. The game has been developed in Flash.

To see the live demonstration please see this YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/user/MingovilleUniverse

As always we encourage you to create a Mingoville account for your kids so the can start to learn English for free now.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85ja3fl9h3Y