Aim of the project
The purpose of this project was to work with pre-school and primary education providers across all sectors (private, public and voluntary) in north-east Wales to demonstrate how Online Educational Resources (OER) can be used as a route from informal to formal learning. Formal higher learning might be with the OU or with one of its partner HEIs in North Wales: Bangor, Glyndwr or Aberystwyth Universities. The OU’s ‘Our Story’ application for creating and telling personalised digital stories was used as an initial engagement tool.
The Our Story application
This app was developed by Professor David Messer and Natalia Kucirkova at the Centre for Education and Educational Technology (CREET) at the Open University. The app makes communication and learning fun, and helps children to feel positive about books, reading and literacy. There are three versions of Our Story, one for iPads, one designed for iPhones / iPods, and one for most Android phones and tablets.
Open Learn is the bbiggest repository of OER in Europe, with over 650 units of free courses and content and 11 million users worldwide. It is free, informal and flexible and can be accessed from any computer which connects to the internet. Extracts of Open University courses can be tried by browsing under a range of subject headings: History and the Arts; Science, Maths and Technology; Body and Mind; Society; Education; Money and Management; Nature and the Environment; and Languages.
Eighteen schools and nine nurseries have been shown Our Story and Open Learn, and these have proved to be successful in engaging nursery and school staff, as well as parent groups. School employees ranging from teaching assistants to qualified teachers and head teachers all gave very positive feedback on the Our Story app, expressing its potential for use in the classroom. Nursery staff also saw the positive effects that personalised stories would have on young children. iPad-based literacy activities have been found to stimulate children’s motivation and concentration (Flewitt et al, 2014), offering ‘rich opportunities for communication, collaborative interaction and independent learning’. It is a requirement of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) that educational programmes must include activities and experiences for children in communication and language, literacy, and understanding the world through opportunities to technology and the environment. In addition, Estyn Inspectors expect to see children engaged in digital and technological activities in the classroom, and official guidance for schools on using new technology for creative and independent work has been issued by the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED).
A presentation of Our Story and Open Learn was also delivered to education students at Glyndwr University, who were about to go to their placements in primary schools.
The project will be evaluated and a full summary report written in early 2015.
ReferencesFlewitt R, Messer D and Kucirkova N (2014) New directions for early literacy in a digital age: the iPad. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, Sage Publications.
Jo Thomas, The Open University in Wales