Children are at lower risk of learning due to incorrect use of exercise programmes

Writings are no longer necessary, because from now on the practice of mathematics and language is digital at Casimirschool in Gouda. Students from Group 6 – after the teacher’s explanation – can start Gynzy. This allows students to practice at their own level, because the exercises change if the children give correct or incorrect answers.

Since teachers no longer check notebooks, they need to maintain a digital overview of student performance. Mariette Eben, who taught Group Eight at the time, says: “I was basically looking to see where the Red Cross appeared. That means a kid made a mistake. I was sitting behind my desk, in front of me 25 kids I was sitting behind a curtain for work, and I thought: What am I really doing? ?”

Gynzy is one of the providers of student-level adaptive exercise programs, a form of learning that has been on the rise for the past 10 years. The market is worth millions: in the Netherlands there are about six thousand primary schools for about 1.4 million children. A license costs a few dozen per student, depending on the provider.

Exercises adapted to the level of the student

Practice programs adjust the level based on the answers. If the child gives correct answers, it becomes more difficult. If things do not go well, the tasks remain at the same level or become easier. This is called adaptive learning.

Two major companies that offer this exercise program are Snappet and Gynzy. Schools can purchase and use this software on their own, but they can also use it in addition to the teaching method of the educational publisher.

The four major educational publishers also offer an adaptive learning option. This relates, for example, to the methods of teaching language and mathematics by Malmberg (Bingel) and Noordhoff (New Dutch, number and area), ThiemeMeulenhoff (spell in elevator, everything matters Q) and Zwijsen (language hunt, safe learning to read, treasure chest) .

Lower level unnoticed or unintentionally

Schools don’t always think carefully about how to use these training programs. The Board of Education sees this, too, indicating the risks in a study published today. Schools, for example, simply replace workbooks and notebooks with exercise programs. Or teachers allow children to practice digitally without proper explanation.

The Board of Education warns that the greatest danger is that children are learning insufficiently. This risk is especially true for children who are not learning normally. Kennisnet, an organization that advises on technology in education, has already pointed out the danger that the teacher will lose control. The computer then determines if the student is doing well, and the teacher is no longer.

Eben from Casimir School saw this happen when some students had not yet mastered French loan words, such as “office”. “If you know how to write that, you understand ‘gift’ and ‘level’ too. But kids who misspelled the word ‘office’ didn’t know why.”

“They could not take it from a colleague or a friend, because each child trains at his own level and pace. The exercises become easier, so at a certain point the child will give good answers again. But if you do not see how to do it, you will not get anything else. Then You won’t learn anything more.”

Another danger is that computer software unfairly weakens children. Teacher Michael van den Helder from De Venen Primary School sees this too. At that school in Reeuwijk, students work with Snappet.

“The program is black and white as to whether something is right or wrong,” says van den Helder. “If the answer to a question is 10,000, but the child uses a comma instead of a period, Snappet says out loud: False. Then Snappet decides that the learning goal was not achieved. While I as a teacher say: The answer is correct, but make sure you use a period What. As a teacher, you have to look very critically at what the computer is saying. That way you prevent the student from moving to a lower level.”

‘Lack of teachers increases risks’

Exercise program providers recognize the risks. So teachers shouldn’t leave everything to the program, says Gynzy’s Sjoerd Groot. “It’s not: ‘Here are some exercises, go ahead. The teacher still has to give good explanations and see if everything is going well. “

“The biggest danger is that the teacher thinks they don’t have to do anything anymore,” says John Nouwens of Malmberg Publishing. He also finds that teachers sometimes put children to work without proper explanation. “You can’t put kids in front of the computer and think it’s going to come naturally.”

Joris de Kock of publisher ThiemeMeulenhoff suspects overwork and a shortage of teachers. “As a result, schools put trainees and teaching assistants in front of the class. They are less good at teaching than experienced teachers. And they are more likely to rely on computer judgment.”

Smart use of exercise programs

Educators also see the benefits of coaching programs. “I’m happy with this system,” says Van den Helder of De Venen Primary School. “It saves time grading and you can quickly see where students need extra support. But as a teacher you have to deal with it well. That’s the key.”

For most Casimirschool students, practice is no longer standard across the programme. “The pupils are now not just staring at their own screens, but learning together again,” says Eben, who is now teaching fifth grade. “They are no longer locked in their own devices.”

However, the school did not completely write off my jeans. “I now have a student who can’t focus when she’s working in the notebook,” says Eben. “But they don’t get distracted behind a device. We also use Gynzy for dyslexic children. If those words are practicing, it would be helpful to see them on screen. That way it works really well.”

And therein lies the difference, says the Board of Education. “If schools think about it carefully, it can help children a lot. It is up to all schools and teachers to think carefully about this. Otherwise, some children will be left behind.”

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