• Sweden's news in English

Swedish digital teachers break gaming 'taboo'

AFP/The Local · 6 Mar 2014, 09:28

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.    
Story continues below…
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
Bacon back in Swedish hotels after huge uproar
Bacon is back on the menu of Comfort hotels in Sweden. Photo: Jonathan Hayward/AP/TT

Bacon back in Swedish hotels after huge uproar

3 hours ago

Petter Stordalen, the owner of the Nordic Choice Hotel Group, has performed a swift U-turn by re-introducing bacon at the chain's Swedish hotels, just a week after banning processed meat.

Refugee crisis
Sweden tightens rules to curb refugee numbers
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Deputy Prime Minister Åsa Romson. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

Sweden tightens rules to curb refugee numbers

4 hours ago

UPDATED: Sweden has introduced a series of measures designed to stem the flow of asylum seekers into the country, after Prime Minister Stefan Löfven admitted the current high number is unsustainable.

Presented by Stockholm Business Region
How Stockholm solved a startup’s housing crisis
Photo: Tuukka Ervasti/imagebank.sweden.se

How Stockholm solved a startup’s housing crisis

7 hours ago

The Stockholm startup scene has become more international than ever, recruiting the best of global talent to join the city's booming tech cluster. But if foreigners can't find housing, startups worry, it's all for naught. Now the City of Stockholm has stepped in.

Eurovision 2016
How to get tickets for Eurovision in Stockholm
Sweden's Eurovision 2015 star Måns Zelmerlöw. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

How to get tickets for Eurovision in Stockholm

8 hours ago

Tickets for the hyped Eurovision Song Contest, to be held in Stockholm in May next year, are set to go on sale on Thursday. Find out how to grab a spot at the world's biggest music festival.

Refugee crisis
Bid to house refugees on Swedish cruise ships
Refugees could soon be accommodated on cruise ships like the one above. Photo: AP/TT

Bid to house refugees on Swedish cruise ships

8 hours ago

Refugees could be housed on Swedish cruise ships in a bid to ease the urgent asylum accommodation shortage as winter sets in, migration authorities have said.

Winter in Sweden presented by Kungsberget
Stockholm's secret ski resort: Kungsberget
Catch air at the Kungsberget snowpark. File photo: Kungsberget

Stockholm's secret ski resort: Kungsberget

12 hours ago

Not everyone enjoys 8-hour car trips or expensive train tickets just to hit the slopes. That's why so many Stockholmers opt for Kungsberget – the majestic mountain just two hours away. The Local finds out more.

Swedish Christmas gift sweeps up competition
A robotic vacuum cleaner. Photo: Thommy Tengborg/TT

Swedish Christmas gift sweeps up competition

12 hours ago

Sweden's cleanest Christmas gift of 2015 sucks. No, it really does. A Swedish retail research group predicts the most popular present underneath the tree this year will be a robotic vacuum cleaner.

Innocent 'terrorist' won't blame Swedish police
Boliden in northern Sweden. Photo: Cliff Karlsson/TT

Innocent 'terrorist' won't blame Swedish police

13 hours ago

A 22-year-old innocent man who was wrongly accused of planning a terror attack in Sweden has returned to the small northern town of Boliden – and insists he bears no grudge against Swedish authorities.

Champions League
Fans torn over Zlatan's return to Malmö
Zlatan Ibrahimovic at a previous match between PSG and Malmö FF. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Fans torn over Zlatan's return to Malmö

14 hours ago

As Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic returns to his home town on Wednesday to represent Paris Saint-Germain in their Champions League clash with Malmö FF, some fans are torn over who to support.

'Swedish politicians must admit they were wrong'
Sweden raised its terror threat level to 'high' last week. Photo: Yvonne Åsell/SvD/TT

'Swedish politicians must admit they were wrong'

15 hours ago

Terrorism and Sweden's border controls have hit the headlines in recent weeks. But it is time to start talking about how to help the country grow after the crisis is over, argues entrepreneur Tommy Jacobsson.

GUIDE: How to help refugees if you live in Sweden
IN PICTURES: New royal winter snaps of Sweden's Princess Estelle
Sponsored Article
Top five UK weekend getaways from Sweden
Mystery ice circle in Swedish river
Sponsored Article
Beaches, bikes, and buds: studying in Malmö
Blog updates

20 November

Editor’s blog, November 20th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, It has been a long and busy week for The Local as we reported on..." READ »


21 November

 (Joel Sherwood) »

"Sweden on high alert over threat of Republican candidates. The country raised its terror level to ‘high’..." READ »

Sponsored Article
Sweden must combat extremist 'mirage'
Property of the week: Kungsholmen, Stockholm
Stockholm film festival's top movies
Sponsored Article
How to figure out healthcare abroad
People-watching: November 20th-22nd
Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: the new epicentre of global leadership
Swedish King calls for bathtub ban
Susanne Walström/imagebank.sweden.se
Sponsored Article
‘Food choices in Sweden destroy forests in Asia’
Analysis & Opinion
Why you should care about Sweden raising its terror threat level
Sponsored Article
The cheapest and fastest way to transfer money
Stockholm's best international bars
Is this the best warning sign ever?
Why are more Swedes getting fat?
Sweden's tribute to Paris victims
What is Sweden's sexiest name?
VIDEO: Madonna's emotional tribute to Paris victims at Stockholm gig
Nine of the merriest Swedish Christmas fairs
Sweden cashes in on new kronor banknotes
How lonely are you in Sweden?
Roaming bear shot dead in Swedish village in Uppsala county
Seven tips for scoring firm friendships in Sweden
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: