Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Primary Pete, on zondle.com

This blog, written by Primary Pete, gives some of his views on zondle. Thank you for your kind words @primarypete_

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A week ago I was told about Zondle by @cerirwilliams after asking on Twitter for any suggestions for software that supports basic skills development, which I’m sure will become a focus for many schools with Ofsted’s agenda shifting. In my opinion, Zondle is a game changer. For background information helping to explain why, please read this post on my current strategic thinking regarding the direction that ICT needs to develop within my specific setting. To find what Zondle has to offer… read on!

In short, Zondle is a platform for learning (through answering questions) where you can play short games between questions. In my opinion it has 6 aspects which make it a game changer.

ONE: The beauty of the games element is that you can drop whatever content you want into the learning part and still give children the option of playing any of the games, so with 10 topics (sets of questions) and 10 games, that’s 100 possible combinations. This really increases the longevity of any of the topics for Primary aged children. My year 1 class are currently addicted to ‘creating pizzas’, which I really didn’t see coming. However if they get bored they have plenty plenty more to capture their interest.

TWO: Topics can be shared. This is massive. Every single one of the sets of questions that you create can be shared in the platform. So for example, my primary focus for using Zondle is to support phonics and spelling development. We use Letters and Sounds. I found a few resources to support different sounds but wanted a complete set, so I’m in the process of going through every sound in every phase to create a system I can get our school to use. And it’s shared. So any other school can jump on and access the same topics. I.E. Instantly accessible pre-created, high quality (if I do say so myself) content.

THREE: Sticking with the same example, the platform is extremely innovative. I have been able to go further than simply creating a spelling program where the word is on screen, disappears and then you spell it. That is just one of the several (and growing) possible ways of creating a set of questions. I chose to use one of the special ‘phonics’ question builders which allows you to upload a sound file and then specify the individual phonemes that make up the word. Children then hear the word and click on a range of individual sounds (which play – that is all built into the system) to create the word, giving them the opportunity to use their phonic knowledge to help them spell. A critical basic skill. Unfortunately I work in the lovely North West and have a southern accent so there is that dialect issue (for me), however the children are so used to hearing it in other programs that they get it without any problem. And even if they did…

FOUR: Zondle customer support is immense. They are planning lots of exciting things in the future, e.g. different dialects. They listen to teachers and want to build a system for teachers and are extremely helpful when it comes to getting data into the system and supporting use of the platform.

FIVE: Assessment. I haven’t had a chance to use that element yet as I have only just got individual logins today (yes, a Saturday) for our school (we used a shared class login previously). My understanding is you can review performance in each of the topics, for each of the children (in the topics where there is a ‘right or wrong’ answer). Therefore you could set topics to users (you can definitely do that) and then using the assessment element, pin pointing class support based on performance.

SIX: Did I mention Zondle was free? I believe there are additional elements that you can pay for, but keeping the main platform free is the model they are following. Therefore it makes it a great platform for teachers to use, see the impact and then buy in elements that are of particular use.

The system seems to be well used in secondary, particularly for Maths and MFL and whilst I think the possibilities there are giant, the impact Zondle could have on basic skills in Primary education is even greater. One small word of caution is the platform currently has a login button for Facebook and by nature, anyone can create content so some could be created by children that were inaccurate or inappropriate. Zondle clearly takes E-Safety seriously though, with a CEOP button on the homepage and the ability to log issues with topics. Referring back to the 4th aspect, personally I think a completely separate Primary login page would minimize possible E-Safety concerns. And the fact that Zondle will undoubtedly listen to this kind of advice is one of the six reasons that for me, it’s a game changer. <– Update*** I’m not surprised to say that the Zondle team have now implimented a ‘Junior’ login section! You can visit it here: www.zondle.com/junior