Report – Pushing the Boundaries for Learning

Posted on: Wednesday 03 July 2019 4:22pm

The session explored a simple but important question; how do we deliver the best, most innovative learning content for children? In a world where children are increasingly media and digital savvy, how can new technologies be used to create learning experiences to compete for children’s attention.  Can the newer skills like gamification and transmedia storytelling make an impact across the education space and help children develop the skills and knowledge the next generation will need to navigate an increasingly complex and challenging world?


  • Characters and narrative deepen the learning experience.
  • Pedagogy knowledge can make sure learning accompanies engagement.
  • Simple AI is already delivering real benefits in learning and is an exciting area of development.
  • New technologies and approaches are great, but work back from the learning experience.


Greg Foot moderated the session drawing on his experience as a BBC and YouTube Science Presenter & Producer.

Professor Jackie Marsh started by highlighting the challenge facing parents in choosing new learning experiences and learning apps, and announced a Home Learning Environment App Competition by the Department for Education to find the best educational apps for young children. Building on comments from other panellists, key elements of innovative learning included Collaborative learning, Adaptive learning, Co-creation, and blended learning experiences drawing on the best of digital and real world.

Oonagh Jacquest drew on experience of BBC Bitesize being the most used educational website in UK with 1.1 million users a week during GCSE period.  She shared 15 years of insight into what works and doesn’t work when it comes to infiltrating advances in technology into learning.  User testing shows that digital learning needs to be carefully tailored according to age group, providing the right experience from which they can benefit from the most.  For Bitesize, innovation means a focus on learning outcomes, and scalability of the learning experience.  They achieve this through focus on knowledge-based recall across platforms, higher order learning (real life situations like cooking to teach maths), and progression feedback (adaptive quizzing that learns from what the child gets wrong).

Joshua Davidson talked through Night Zookeeper’s journey from visiting schools dressed as night keepers to engage children and teachers at grass roots create their own digital content through their drawing and writing, to today’s digital platform where they are involved with 1000 schools in the UK. Now, Night Zookeeper is a Sky TV series.  Building from ‘imagination is intelligence having fun’, Zookeeper has used storytelling and technology to engage children with a clear focus on improving literacy and community action. Important learnings include the importance of creating a platform for children to share their work, even a chance to be in a TV show, how much children enjoy content created by other children, and how great the characters and stories created really are!  Gamification and basic application of AI have been successful in deepening the learning experience, as well as publishing of print books.  New developments are underway around Live games for children to play and learn with other children, AR and VR, and greater use of AI and adaptive feedback.

Josh Blair introduced the Science Museum’s Total Darkness, a project to find new ways of engaging 7-13-year-olds through education work at the Science Museums to encourage them to choose to engage with STEM concepts.  He introduced the idea of ‘Science capital’ – how much exposure children do or don’t have to science through their families, schools and experiences.  The project involved close analysis of data to find out what young people want, using gaming skills to teach the science skills of curiosity, creativity and communication.  Learnings included the importance of story, specifically requested by children, characters and gameplay, and how much child-led development shaped the project.  A key learning in attracting children in a crowded media world was to use short YouTube clips of the experience, and to keep messages simple and impactful.


Author: Craig Hill

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