• Sweden's news in English
 
Swedish digital teachers break gaming 'taboo'

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
Christian Democrats: Cut refugee benefits
Christian Democrat leader Göran Hägglund. Photo: TT

Christian Democrats: Cut refugee benefits

The Christian Democrats have announced proposals to reduce the cost of the asylum process in Sweden, arguing that cuts are necessary to maintain "the legitimacy" of the system. READ  

Israel rejects Sweden meet: report
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström. Photo: TT

Israel rejects Sweden meet: report

Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lierberman has refused the opportunity to meet with his Swedish counterpart Margot Wallström in January, according to Israeli media reports. READ  

Sweden ranked fifth best country for business
Central Stockholm in the winter. Photo: Shutterstock.

Sweden ranked fifth best country for business

Forbes magazine has ranked Sweden as the fifth best country in the world for business. READ  

Explosion rocks outer Stockholm suburb
Damage from the explosion. Photo: TT

Explosion rocks outer Stockholm suburb

A blast shook the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby during the night, causing significant damage to a local shopping centre. Police are still without any official suspects. READ  

Armed Forces to speak out on SAS 'near miss'
Sweden's Armed Forces will speak on Thursday. Photo: TT

Armed Forces to speak out on SAS 'near miss'

Sweden's Armed Forces have called a press conference to share their own version of events, after a Russian aircraft is alleged to have flown dangerously close to a plane operated by SAS last week. READ  

Karlskrona child murder
Uncle charged with 8-year-old's death
The Blekinge District Court. Photo: TT

Uncle charged with 8-year-old's death

A man and a woman have been formally charged for fatally beating an 8-year-old girl - a child murder case that has dominated the headlines in Sweden all year. READ  

Sweden and Romania to discuss begging surge
A Roma beggar in Umeå last week. Photo: The Local

Sweden and Romania to discuss begging surge

Romania's Social Affairs and Labour Minister Rovana Plumb has accepted an invitation to Stockholm in January to discuss the rising number of Roma people begging in Sweden's major towns and cities. READ  

The Local List
Eight things to do when it gets dark in Umeå
The sun sets early in Umeå, but luckily there is still plenty to do. Photo: Umeå2014

Eight things to do when it gets dark in Umeå

After a recent trip to the wild north, The Local's Oliver Gee recommends eight things to do in Umeå when the sun isn't shining. Which at this time of the year, is almost all day. READ  

SAS plane 'near miss' fears blamed on weed
Mikhail Vanin, Russia's ambassador in Copenhagen. Photo: TT

SAS plane 'near miss' fears blamed on weed

Russia's ambassador to Denmark has made light of Swedish concerns over a Russian military jet's alleged near-miss with a passenger plane, suggesting Swedish authorities may have smoked too much cannabis. READ  

Video: Swedish sounds
Swedes get their mouths round tongue twisters
Can you get your tongue around these tongue twisters? Photo: Shutterstock.

Swedes get their mouths round tongue twisters

'Tis the season for some silly news stories. The Local took to the streets of Stockholm to see how well people could pronounce some of the nation's top tongue twisters. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
Interview: The Local chats with Melinda Gates
Society
VIDEO: Stockholmers try out some Swedish tongue twisters
Society
Eight things to do when it gets dark in Umeå
National
Inside Sweden's first 'light therapy' school
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching: December 17th
Blog updates

17 December

An Exclusive Interview with Melinda Gates (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"This week Nobel peace Prize Winner Kailash Satyarthi urged the world to “globalize compassion”, as he..." READ »

 

14 December

A lot to learn (Blogweiser) »

" I went to the new Starbucks at the swanky Stureplan intersection in central Stockholm. They have a lot..." READ »

 
 
 
Estelle through the years
Gallery
Princess Estelle through the years
Society
Why are there so many 100-year-olds in one Swedish town?
Society
Is it time to better celebrate Sweden's diverse identity?
Gallery
Property of the week: Huddinge
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
National
CATCH UP: Russian plane in Baltic near-miss drama
Lifestyle
How my compass drew me to Sweden
National
The man whose memory you need to remember
Gallery
People-watching: December 13th - 14th
Sponsored Article
How to get your own office anywhere in the world
Politics
'Our party will stand alone': Stefan Löfven
Society
The Local chats to Ruben Östlund, director of Golden Globe nominated Force Majeure
Lifestyle
Ten things to know before a Swedish party
Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: December 12th to 19th
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The 2014 Nobel Banquet
National
The Local's guide to the Nobel Prizes 2014
Education
Introducing... Education in Stockholm
Society
The Swedish Christmas market with a twist
Lifestyle
Why do so many Swedes have tattoos?
Society
Get 20% off Swedish Christmas decorations
National
Dewani family: We only heard half the story
Business & Money
Business in Stockholm: 'efficiency is money'
Gallery
Property of the week: Östermalm
National
Meet the Swedes hosting festive feasts for 'lonely' guests
Gallery
TIMELINE: Swedish honeymoon killing murder trial
Gallery
People-watching: December 7th
Gallery
IN PICTURES: What's it like to fly planes in Sweden?
National
Submarine hunters 'robbed' of reward cash
National
The Local's Countdown to Christmas
National
'Dangerous' USB charger recalled in Sweden
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's King and Queen wrap up France tour
National
Analysis: Should Snowden get asylum in Sweden?
National
Swedish schoolboy in female saint role row
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's political crisis unfolds
Gallery
People-watching: December 3rd
National
What happened to Sweden's ice bucket cash?
Lifestyle
Top Swedish songs of the month
National
Why a child footballer has a huge legal bill
Lifestyle
Top ten Swedish Christmas presents
Sponsored Article
SIS: the thinking behind globalised learning
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Family life in Stockholm
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

785
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
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists.
Details and how to apply
Counselling and Psychotherapy in English
Sometimes living in another culture can cause stress, confusion and feelings of sadness and loneliness. Talking to a professional psychotherapist/counsellor might help you. I am a UKCP Reg. psychotherapist. My practice is in Södermalm, Stockholm.
Contact me to discuss your options