IBM’s KidSmart program was recently displayed at the Young Scientists’ Exhibition in the RDS. This program aims to integrate interactive teaching and learning activities into pre-schools and is aimed at 3-7 year olds.
The program is currently used with over 2 million children in 60 countries. The focus is on underprivileged areas as well as educating children from other countries who are starting off in the Irish Education system.
“Special needs is always our priority”, says Deirdre Kennedy, spokesperson for IBM Ireland. The KidSmart Young Explorer computer, which is given to qualifying schools, is brightly coloured to attract kids and provides early learning concepts to explore maths, science and languages.
Internationally the KidSmart programme has been very successful with deaf and hard of hearing children.
In one case study the Young Explorer computer was given to The Hammerfestweg Kindergarten in Austria. Here, teachers use KidSmart to respond to each child’s personal needs and goals. Children with hearing issues have particularly benefited from the in-built audio software, Audiolog, which supports them through each activity.
This software shows the lip movements for different words so the children can learn how to lip-read. This also develops pronunciation skills. The teachers tell of the positive effects of this programme. Teacher Eva Potz says, “Before using KidSmart, two-thirds of the children had never used a computer. Now most of them feel comfortable”.
At the “Käpt’n Browser Integrationkita” kindergarten in Berlin, Germany, the KidSmart Centre is used to teach sign language to one deaf student, and to his classmates. Visual learning is core to all KidSmart learning programs.
In Cape Town, South Africa, the KidSmart is used to supplement classes and to devevlop language in deaf children. Because the children regard time at the KidSmart as fun time, these sessions are highly popular and are something the kids look forward to. Staff also find the units useful as an assessment tool for tracking each child’s individual progress.
“KidSmart units have opened the window to technology for these young learners,” says Inge Karitzinger, a teacher at the centre. “They remove the child’s fear of the unknown and let them access the world of information.”
The units both enable the children to become computer literate and to improve social skills. Because more than one child can sit at the KidSmart unit, the children can collaborate to complete the different exercises.
Each year IBM works with The National Centre for Technology in Education to decide on a focus for that year. While the focus for 2010 applications is still to be decided, all enquiries can be emailed to Deirdre Kennedy, kennedyd<at>ie.ibm.com .
KidSmart Case Studies (pdf file)
(compiled by Miriam Walsh)