Konstantin Yuganov - Fotolia

Department for Education publishes tools to support learning at home

The Department for Education publishes apps featuring innovations such as artificial intelligence aimed at helping parents to use technology to create positive learning environments

The Department for Education (DfE) launched a collection of six apps with features such as artificial intelligence (AI) to help parents’ decisions about the use of technology in creating positive domestic learning environments.

Covering activities ranging from interactive story books, handwriting exercises using AI, and educational video games, the apps created by education technology (edtech) firms were published on the DfE’s Hungry Little Minds campaign website and are intended to improve children’s reading, writing and speaking skills.

The publication of the tools follows a competition held by the department where a panel of experts, including children’s digital media consultants, early learning charities and researchers at universities, sought to find educational apps for parents to engage young children in learning at home.

The approved apps were selected according to criteria, including elements of play, interaction and ranging levels of difficulty. One of the apps, dubbed Kaligo, is aimed at children aged 3-5. It claims to be the first-ever digital handwriting exercise book using a stylus and tablet, built using AI. It was co-created with teachers, occupational therapists and neuroscientists.

“We know that the majority of families are using technology in fun and visual ways to support their child’s early education, but it can be difficult for busy parents to work out what content is best,” said education secretary Gavin Williamson.

Research published by the DfE suggests over half of parents surveyed (52%) said they played pretend games together or took turns playing fun activities with their child every day.

According to the department, this highlights the importance in providing support to parents in tackling barriers some of them face in supporting their child’s learning at home, including time, confidence and ideas of things to do.

This also includes work with businesses and organisations offering initiatives to drive vital early skills, the DfE said, as part of “a national, society-wide effort”.

The government considers Brexit an opportunity for the UK to develop “global collaboration” around areas such as edtech.

Earlier this year, minister of state for universities, science, research and innovation Chris Skidmore said the government wants to ensure the UK is at the forefront of education technology, by developing both the “next generation of digital innovators” and existing businesses or startups in the UK tech sector.

Initiatives currently in place to support startups focused on education include the government’s edtech testbed programme, led by innovation foundation Nesta and a partner university, to connect schools and colleges with providers of edtech products designed to tackle challenges such as marking schoolwork and engaging parents.

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