Does it work?

Yes!

But we would say that. Of course it depends slightly on what you mean by ‘work’.

Are young people learning anything, or are they just playing games?

We recently worked with the University of Bristol, School of Physics as an Industrial Project partner, setting the students the challenge of developing new project guides for DigiLocal young people. One of the key objectives for the academic award was to use good educational theories in developing those project guides. The team researched and adopted the model of conceptual gain to evaluate the learning experienced over individual and multiple sessions (some of the guides went through more than 6 iterations).

As well as an online questionnaire, they observed activity during the sessions (including the wonderfully titled ‘fiddle factor’ representing the confidence of the young people to experiment with the code to see what would happen), and had a number of conversations with young people about what was going on (semi-structured interviews). They were particularly interested in using model-driven code to challenge common misconceptions around physics, especially forces & motion.

Summerhill was separated out because it was a Primary School and the abstract concepts were thought to be more advanced than would be expected for that age group (typically 8-10yrs).

There were substantial gains across the board, however, sample sizes weren’t sufficient to claim statistical significance.

We’re very keen to continue supporting research in practice to understand and demonstrate the value of regular, high quality, engagement with technology as a facilitator to developing motivated learners. Ultimately we’d like to be able to show a clear pathway to employment (but as we’re working with 8 year olds, that’s a way off).