After-school club & why we use it

Posted on May 18, 2011. Filed under: after school club, edutainment, primary children |

We’ve used the After-school Club since 2006 and I thought that I’d post a few reasons why:

1. Good quality childcare: Rated ‘good’ by Ofsted, the club provides a wide range of activities, toys, games and runs trips during the holidays, the staff are friendly and approachable and the children love going.

2. Reliability: The club is open during term-time and in the holidays.  It’s important to us that we have a reliable childcare provider, in particular that we don’t have the worry that we’ll have to make other arrangements at short notice because our children’s carer is sick.  An alternative could be a child-minder, but then we’d have to find alternative cover when they are on holiday or take holiday when they do.

3. Flexibility: We can book regular days & one-off sessions. This means that I can be flexible at work (I’m part-time).

4. Excellent value for money: highly competitive fees, wide range of activities and resources available.  We can use our childcare vouchers (e.g. BusyBees and Accor) to pay for sessions and for after-school clubs e.g. Gym.

5. Efficiency: Having the same provider for term-time and holiday care reduces our personal ‘admin’ time around fee payments etc.

6. Links with the school: the club is on the school site so the children are familiar with the environment and have access to school resources e.g. large play areas and after-school clubs e.g. gym.

7. A wide range of other children to play with: They get to play with children of different ages and from a wide range of back-grounds; different children attend on different days during term-time and in holiday clubs. I think this is really important for their developing social skills, confidence and learning.

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Reading, Writing and Arithmetic on the Web or the Wii

Posted on December 3, 2007. Filed under: children, collaboration, education, edutainment, gaming, kids, technology, wii |

I’ve just had a quick go on a few games on the Arcademic Skill Builders site, having read a blog posting by the Shifted Librarian “The Three Wii R’s“.  Arcademic Skill Builders are providing free educational ‘arcade’ games for (younger) children that can be accessed over the web, or using a Wii browser and ‘mote.   There are single-player and multi-player games available.  So up to 4 children anywhere in the World can play against each other.  I’m looking forward to trying this out with my daughter on our Wii. 

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Virtual Edutainment Worlds for Children

Posted on October 26, 2007. Filed under: accessibility, barbiegirls, children, club penguin, education, edutainment, funkeys, future, gaming, kids, play, sharing, technology, tygirlz, webkinz |

When speaking at the Virtual Worlds Forum in London this week about the game-related worlds targetted at children (primarily those that link membership of the world to ownership of a toy) Lord Puttnam (who is incidentally the new Chancellor of The Open University) presented the following challenge:

“The challenge ahead is this – to ensure that virtual worlds are increasingly places that offer real meaning to their lives and in the real world to learn from the sense of community and collaboration that’s been experienced in virtual worlds” (BBC News, “Virtual worlds threaten ‘values'”, 2007-10-15.

I think that the challenge should be wider than this. Children-centred virtual worlds should be more educational. The developers should be challenged to produce children-centred virtual worlds that include educational games and activities that link with and enable them to build on the educational experiences that are available in the real world.

Children-centred virtual worlds should provide opportunities for children to learn through interacting and networking and through sharing experiences and collaborating on projects with other children from all over the world. The challenge is to ensure that the worlds remain safe, fun and engaging; that there are a variety of educational experiences available to all levels from pre-school up-wards; and that the worlds are accessible to all, including those with disabilities.

The Club Penguin virtual world provides free access to a subset of the functionality available to paid-up members and although CP merchandise (t-shirts, key-rings etc) is available from the site it does not tie membership of the world to the ownership of a toy (unlike webkinz, Funkeys, BarbieGirls, TyGirlz and others).

Club Penguin offers non-members simple strategy games like 4 in a row that can be played by two friends. It would be good to see more educational games that 1, 2 or more friends can participate in. Club Penguin offers a safe mode in which children can only chat using ‘safe’ phrases provided by the site. It provides a forum in which children can learn and practice social and networking skills – e.g. to wait for their turn to speak; to keep a conversation going and the engagement of their friend; practice how to respond to people who are annoying them (throwing snowballs at them perhaps); how to get to know and make friends with other people.

It also enables them to explore and navigate within an online environment and learn how to play games to win (coins). Penguins (children) are able to purchase items (clothes, pets, pet food, backgrounds for their profiles, furnishings for their igloos etc) and so they learn something about the value of money (all be it a virtual currency) and that hard work (winning a game) pays off. If they buy a pet then they have to learn how to look after it (feed, play, exercise it and bath it – all of which cost coins) and in doing so they learn from their decisions – e.g. that too many treats and not enough exercise reduce your level of health. They also see their number of coins going up and down and so learn about addition and subtraction during the various games available. The children can reflect and develop their personalities in the clothes, accessories and igloo furnishings that they choose for themselves, in the same way that many of them do in real life. They can develop their reading, spelling and keyboard skills through chatting and reading the club magazines and story books.

I’m on the look out for more ‘safe’ worlds like Club Penguin, especially any that provide educational content, collaborative educational experiences and opportunities to use and develop imagination and storytelling. I would also like to see edutainment worlds linked to classic children’s books to enable them to explore ideas in the books further, act out scenes as the characters and make up their own storylines.

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