• Sweden's news in English
 
almadalen_header

Swedish digital teachers break gaming 'taboo'

Published: 06 Mar 2014 09:28 GMT+01:00

 
Two-year-old Mia traces out a letter on the screen with her forefinger, then claps with joy when the computer chants "wonderful!" and emits a slightly metallic round of applause. The preschool group at Tanto International School in central Stockholm is just getting used to a new batch of iPads -- one for every two children -- and it's a noisy, chatty affair.
   
"They really enjoy playing this app. It's really good for learning pronunciation," said their teacher Helena Bergstrand.    
 
Bergstrand, along with nearly 90 percent of teachers polled by the city council, believes that iPads and tablets help motivate children to learn. 
 
- 'More interactive' -
 
"There's an instant appeal with an iPad ... they love it!" Bergstrand says, raising her voice over the din as she moves around the table to help the children. "It's more interactive (than pen and paper)."    
 
Petra Petersen at Uppsala University has researched the rapidly growing use of tablets in preschools -- recording children when they interact with the technology and each other.
   
"In the schools I've looked at, they usually sit together in a group and its very collaborative, there's a lot of body contact and verbal communication," she said.
   
"These tablets are very multi-modal -- they have colours, sounds, spoken words, and things that interest the children -- that's part of what makes them so popular. A large part of learning is about having fun, and the children have a lot of fun with them."
   
In Sweden, like in many countries, small children often play games on tablets and laptops long before they encounter them at school. The national media council said that close to 70 percent of Swedish two- to four-year-olds play video games. Nearly a half (45 percent) of children aged two have used the Internet -- perhaps unsurprising in a country with one of the world's highest mobile broadband penetrations.
   
"It's more or less prioritized in schools now, to bridge the gap between schools and the environment children are living in," said Peter Karlberg, an IT expert at the National Education Agency, referring to the thousands of tablet computers bought by public and private sector schools in the last few years.
   
And that has put increasing pressure on teachers to get up to speed -- one in every two surveyed have said they need special training.
 
- 'Still a taboo' -
 
Felix Gyllenstig Serrao, a teacher in the western city of Gothenburg, has taken computer-aided teaching further than most, using the popular Swedish game Minecraft to teach children with behavioural and concentration problems, including Attention Deficit Disorder and Asperger's Syndrome.
   
"I bring something to the classroom that they like -- that they do in their spare time -- to make them want to be in school," he said.    
 
"Minecraft is very good because it's so open and creative ... I usually use it to make a topic more alive."
   
Serrao --  a games enthusiast himself -- teaches 12- to 15-year-olds subjects like mathematics and history, using the game's building blocks, often called "digital lego", to make maths problems tangible or to illustrate scenes from history books, building them in the game after the formal part of the lesson has ended.
   
"It reinforces what they learn -- when they return to the game later and see there's a pyramid there or a town we built they remember the lesson."
   
He said Sweden has a long way to go before schools can exploit the full potential of digital classrooms.
   
"There's still a taboo around games. When I talk to older teachers about this they usually frown -- thinking that video games have nothing to do with learning," he said.
 
- 'Can't replace a teacher' -
 
The drive to digitize schools also has outspoken critics.    
 
Jonas Linderoth, a video games researcher at the University of Gothenburg's education faculty, sees a number of pitfalls in the current drive to put tablets in the hands of infants, and in over-stating the educational value of video games.
   
"This technology wasn't available three years ago and now the discourse is that you can't have a preschool without a tablet computer ... A three-year-old's life is complex enough as it is -- there is so much to learn. Do you really need to add more complexity with apps?," he said, adding that it takes time away from other activities.
   
"Most children have this technology at home. They can click on apps in the back seat of the family car. But fewer and fewer have parents that read to them -- preschools should compensate for that."
   
He also pours scorn on science fiction-like visions of the future of education where students effortlessly learn by playing video games.
   
"There is this popular idea now that gaming has unlocked the holy grail to learning ... Real learning is hard work!"
   
Bored with letters, Mia clicks a puppet-making app on her preschool iPad, and her own face appears on the screen.    As she smiles, her teacher helps her take a photo and superimpose it on an animated character.
   
"In preschool, children play games all the time -- you don't sit down for lessons -- and iPads are really appealing to them. I think we'd be fools not to use them," said Bergstrand. "They can't replace a teacher but they can definitely help us -- to have something extra that's fun to work with."

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
LIVE: Sweden's political power forum - Day Eight
Liberal Party leader Jan Björklund. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

LIVE: Sweden's political power forum - Day Eight

The Swedish Liberal Party will be hoping to score some new support after a year of plummeting in the polls when its leader Jan Björklund takes centre stage on the final day of Almedalen Week. READ  

Swedes on cusp of snail control breakthrough
Snails are enjoying a bumper year at Swedish gardeners' expense. Photo: By macrophile on Flickr via Wikimedia Commons

Swedes on cusp of snail control breakthrough

Since the spring, frequent rain has ensured prime conditions for one of the gardener’s biggest enemies - the snail. Swedish scientists, however, may have found the ultimate deterrent. READ  

Almedalen 2015
BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Seven
Left Party leader Jonas Sjöstedt speaking at Almedalen 2015 on Saturday. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Seven

It's the seventh day of Almedalen, the most important week in Swedish politics, and the Left Party is running the show. The Local is live blogging the key moments. READ  

Russian bombers seen off Swedish coast
A Russian Tu-22M3 Tu-bomber. Photo: Pavel Golovkin

Russian bombers seen off Swedish coast

Swedish fighter jets were sent on Saturday morning to monitor the activity of two Russian bombers to the east of Gotland. READ  

Almedalen 2015 with the EU Commission in Sweden
'Today's refugees could be tomorrow's Zlatan'
Photo: Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

'Today's refugees could be tomorrow's Zlatan'

Sweden is grappling with how to handle a large influx of asylum seekers while some other EU nations brush off responsibility – but it's important to focus on the benefits of immigration as well, high-profile panelists agreed at an Almedalen event. READ  

Almedalen 2015
Opposition head pledges lower taxes on first jobs
Sweden's Moderate party leader Anna Kinberg Batra at Almedalen. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT

Opposition head pledges lower taxes on first jobs

Moderate Party leader Anna Kinberg Batra spoke about jobs in her first speech at Almedalen since becoming head of Sweden's biggest opposition party. READ  

Almedalen 2015
BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Six
New Moderate Party leader Anna Kinberg Batra speaking at Almedalen. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Six

Anna Kinberg Batra - the new leader of Sweden's biggest opposition party, the Moderates - focused on job creation in her first speech at Almedalen, Sweden's huge week-long politics forum. READ  

Jump in solo children seeking Swedish asylum
A playground at Märsta immigration centre in Sweden. Maja Suslin/TT

Jump in solo children seeking Swedish asylum

A record 1447 unaccompanied children sought asylum in Sweden last month, figures from the Swedish Migration Board have revealed. READ  

Almedalen 2015
Cashless society faces backlash from losers
What are the downsides of a cashless society? Photo: Per Larsson/TT

Cashless society faces backlash from losers

Sweden is possibly the nearest thing the world has to a cashless society, but some Swedes are worried about the effects on rural areas, pensioners - and personal integrity. READ  

Almedalen 2015
Sweden's green leader in second Auschwitz gaffe
Åsa Romson at Sweden's Almedalen Week. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT

Sweden's green leader in second Auschwitz gaffe

UPDATED: Sweden's Deputy Prime Minister and Green Party leader Åsa Romson has stirred up a storm after she placed Auschwitz in southern Germany instead of Poland, her second gaffe about the holocaust. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Learning Swedish: different rules for expats and refugees?
Sport
IN PICTURES: Thousands welcome home Sweden’s heroes
Politics
Almedalen: The Local's guide to Sweden's power players week
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Swedes soak up sun on hottest day of year
Sport
Sweden celebrates greatest sporting victory in decades
Blog updates

2 July

Som eller att (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hejsan! It happens quite often, that my students are confused over when to use “som” and when..." READ »

 

26 June

Editor’s blog, June 26th (The Local Sweden) »

"Greetings from Stockholm, We’re about to transport our newsroom to the idyllic Swedish island of Gotland for..." READ »

 
 
 
Gallery
People-watching: July 1st
Sponsored Article
VIP Mingle at Almedalen's hottest event
National
Swede battles slug invasion
Sponsored Article
What can we learn from Swedish women's sex habits?
National
VIDEO: Is this herring tasting clip an 'insult to Sweden'?
Gallery
Property of the week: Visby, Gotland
National
Sweden set for sunniest week of year
Gallery
People-watching: June 26th-28th
Features
The Local's essential guide to who's who in Swedish politics
National
More Swedish military exercises as Russia aggression fears grow
National
What's on in Sweden this week
Travel
Why Swedish camp sites are set for a bumper summer
National
Swedish summer's really on its way (at least according to forecasters)
Gallery
People-watching: June 24th
National
Why are southern Swedes angry about becoming 'Danish' again?
Society
Lifestyle: When to catch your favourite features on The Local
National
Is Sweden one of the world's most peaceful nations?
Sponsored Article
Harstena: Travelling to Sweden's secret islands
National
One in ten Swedish cats homeless
Sponsored Article
'I constantly evolve my Swedishness'
Gallery
Property of the week: Värmdö, Stockholm
Society
Would you eat this Swedish pizza?
National
Swedish royals' dream honeymoon
National
Swedish hospital opens first centre for male rape victims
Gallery
People-watching: June 20th-21st
Photo: TT
Lifestyle
Midsummer: The Local's guide to Sweden's craziest festival
Sponsored Article
Murder, myth and magic: Travelling to the birthplace of Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: June 17th
Sponsored Article
Gallery: Life in Sweden's secret archipelago
Society
Seven alternative names for Sweden's Prince Nicolas Paul Gustaf
National
FBI returns stolen Swedish books
National
Want to smell like Zlatan?
National
Royal joy over birth of new prince
Gallery
Property of the week: Brantevik, Simrishamn
National
How racy graffiti inspired a teacher's high school sex class
Gallery
People-watching: June 12th-14th
National
As it happened: Prince Carl Philip marries Sofia Hellqvist
Technology
Is Stockholm the world's creative capital?
National
Timeline: Julian Assange case
Sponsored Article
KTH President: ‘Sweden’s success is because of its size’
Gallery
IN PICTURES: New royal couple Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Features
Ten Swedish festivals to discover
Features
Ten reasons Stockholm is definitely way cooler than Copenhagen
National
VIDEO: Watch Swedish man rescue baby elk from cold creek
National
VIDEO: Have you seen this jet ski blunder at a Malmö hotel opening?
Sponsored Article
Why expat women are choosing Swedish natural birth control
Bupa
Sponsored Article
Healthcare: Nine questions every expat should ask
Sponsored Article
The millionaire teacher who leads by tough love
Sponsored Article
How to change the world: Malmö to Mogadishu
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

3,216
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se