The Play & Learn child care centres in Queensland, Australia take on a holistic approach to child development. This means that they put equal focus on each child's physical, cognitive, emotional, and social growth. Unlike other childcare establishments in the state, Play & Learn designed their early learning programs to be more play-based and experiential. They actively encourage children to socialize with each other and pick up new concepts together through fun games and other hands-on exercises.
Play & Learn CEO Julie Watts, who also acts as the operations manager of their Karalee centre, explains: “We understand the importance of play in a child's learning journey, which is why we provide a range of fun and educational activities designed to promote creativity, imagination, and exploration.”
Initially, they had considered issuing each child an iPad with preloaded educational games. They felt that giving children a tablet each would improve their digital literacy. The iPad’s touchscreen interface also made it simple enough for kids to use. But after realizing the tediousness involved in monitoring children’s progress on smaller handheld devices, the Play & Learn staff eventually switched gears.
“We had a bit of a think amongst the educators and felt that small iPads or technology like that would be too difficult to monitor with 23 children in a room,” says Watts. Because each child would be playing on their own device, the room staff would have to check up on them individually to note their progress and help them in case they were having trouble with their games.
The staff at Play & Learn needed an effective educational technology solution that was better suited for more inclusive group activities. They were looking for something that would foster more collaboration and social interactions among the children.
“Technology empowers children to learn and grow because it’s visually appealing… They want to engage... They want to have a go.”
Watts and her team sought out help from Whiteboards and Pinboards, their long-time partner for school equipment. The company had previously assisted Play & Learn with the installation of whiteboards and sound systems in all of their childcare centres. And after discussing Play & Learn’s new requirements, both parties agreed that the BenQ Boards were the right fit.
Play & Learn made an order for several units of the BenQ Board Pro and Master for the preschool classrooms across all their centres. The BenQ Boards offer them a touchscreen that is large enough for several children to team up and play together on. Children are able to solve puzzles, play musical instruments, and make art while their friends can watch and cheer while waiting their turn.
Another benefit that stood out to the Play & Learn educators was how easy it was for them to search the internet through the BenQ Board. Every time their kids would encounter a new word or concept while playing, they could help them gain more insight into the topic by showing them relevant pictures and videos on the board.
“Whiteboards and Pinboards and BenQ have been imperative in the setup of Play & Learn centres. Without the reps from both companies, we would not [have] our beautiful environment set up,” says Watts.
After using the BenQ Boards for their activities with the kids, Watts noticed an immediate difference. "Technology empowers children to learn and grow because it’s visually appealing for them. They want to engage with the interactive whiteboard. They want to have a go," she says.
According to Watts, the BenQ Board has been essential in having their children’s thoughts provoked: “When I say that, I mean [that they are] able to explore new things [that] they’ve talked about in their play.” Watts gives an example of how she and her kids were quickly able to look up images of a diamond head python using the board’s built-in web browser after the animal was mentioned during one of their interactive learning sessions.
“Being able to research stuff and being able to share that with the children has been amazing,” adds Courtney Hejda, assistant educator at the Karalee center.
“To see a child having fun while they learn is the best feeling in the world.”
“I feel the BenQ Board has helped my children to be collaborative learners,” says lead educator Emma Brayshaw. “Before, they just kind of did their own thing. Whereas this has really helped them communicate, share, [and] turn-take. It’s given them the confidence to be able to engage… to learn… to actually want to know more.”
When asked about her overall experience with the BenQ Board thus far, Brayshaw fondly sums up how it’s helped her kids come out of their shells and enjoy: “To see a child having fun while they learn is the best feeling in the world… It makes you smile from ear to ear.”