Teaching Kids from the Digital Generation Using LittleLives

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Friday, November 30th 2012
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All the technology powering the high-tech classrooms in Zhenghua kindergarten is the work of education technology startup LittleLives. LittleLives is helping to overhaul and transform the education administration of all the PCF kindergartens in Singapore. The LittleLives platform offers modules such as attendance, health monitoring and student portfolio, which provides the children with a virtual report card history. This is useful for parents who want to know about their children's day-to-day activities. There is also a built-in social media community platform that lets teachers ask questions of the community and receive help. LittleLives, with a team of about 10 employees, plans to expand beyond Singapore markets. Its CEO and founder, Ms Ho Sun, visited Africa, United States and China recently to meet with potential partners.

Singapore (PRWEB) November 30, 2012

On a huge touch-sensitive computer sceen that serves as a virtual whiteboard, a child scrawls a picture as he learns his numbers and letters.

What sets this high-tech classroom apart is that the pupils are five- and six-year-olds in Zhenghua kindergarten in Bukit Panjang, one of many run by the PAP Community Foundation (PCF).

In this HDB estate, the classes begin at 7:45 a.m. when the teacher takes attendance.

No pen and paper here. As the teacher calls out each name, the child who has been called walks up to the virtual whiteboard, scrolls up or down to find his name, then taps on it to confirm his attendance.

Head teacher Felicia Foo, 28, said: "The kids have no problems doing this themselves."

The screen is integrated seamlessly into the teaching environment. For example, when the children sing the national anthem, a YouTube version of Majulah Singapura is streamed to the teacher's iPad and also to the screen, which has speakers. By seeing the video on the screen, the children can remember the words of the anthem more easily.

If the teacher wants to explain an interesting fact or topic, she can check Google for a relevant video on the spot and play it to the class.

The virtual whiteboard also serves as a canvas for the children's doodling and artwork.

"It saves paper. Only when the kids are happy with the final result do we print it out," said MsFoo.

Lastly, it is used in real-time video conferencing. Using an iPad as a video camera, a classroom lesson can be recorded and streamed live to a classroom in another school.

This kindergarten has used it for show-and-tell competitions between classes before, said Ms Foo.

She thinks the technology is definitely a boon. "It makes teaching more fun and vibrant," she said. "The kids love it."

The driving force behind the kindergarten's extensive use of IT is Ms Daisy Ngiam Moi Kin, 52, the administrator of the kindergarten.

"Even three-year-olds nowadays know how to use the iPad," she said. "If we don't keep up with the D-generation, we're going to be left behind."

The D-generation, or digital generation, are those growing up in the information age of fast-speed Internet, smartphones and tablets.

Not knowing how to use these tools would be a disadvantage. It is the school's role to equip students with such skills, said Ms Ngiam, who looks after this kindergarten and two others.

She believes it is worthwhile building a high-tech learning environment.

PCF Zhenghua kindergarten was opened in January this year and cost more than $400,000 to build, compared with $300,000 for typical kindergartens, she said.

High tech does not mean high fees. A five-day half-day programme here costs about $150 a month per child. Some private schools may charge more than $1,000 a month.

PCF kindergartens cater mostly to heartlanders, but Ms Ngiam stressed it is not true that "low fees means we are no good".

"Education should be affordable to all students, even underprivileged ones," she said.

Madam Norrazean Kamarulzaman, 28, enrolled her son, who is six, at Zhenghua kindergarten. She has two other children.

Madam Norrazean said she does not own a tablet or any of the latest IT gadgets, and she believes the school provides good exposure for her child.

"I prefer their advanced way of teaching. It's better for the children and will help prepare my son for primary school," she said.

TRANSFORMING THE CLASSROOM

All the technology powering the high-tech classrooms in Zhenghua kindergarten is the work of home-grown IT education vendor LittleLives.