We learn by playing

Fifteen schools in Georgia are modeling a new digital learning programme: “Learn by Playing”

Inge Snip for UNICEF Georgia
Boy in classroom
UNICEF/GEO-2019/Robakidze

08 July 2019

A new digital learning programme “Learn by Playing” is one of many innovations an Estonian-Georgian partnership programme in general education offers to schools and students.

Nikoloz, a 10-year-old fourth-grader at Tbilisi’s public school #123, carefully disassembles his buki – a small notebook/tablet that every student in Georgia receives from the state. “This a plum tree, and here’s the girl,” says Nikoloz, describing the drawing on his tablet as he points at the different elements with his finger. “And here’s the king she throws plums at.”

The story Nikoloz has recreated in the digital learning programme is one covered in their Georgian classes – a history story showing the importance of bravery, negotiation and how misunderstandings shouldn’t lead to anger.

Nikoloz shows his work
UNICEF/GEO-2019/Robakidze

Seated in their computer room – a classroom at the top floor of the school with bright walls, a computer board circuit painting in blue, and inspiringly shaped tables – the class went through the story first with their Georgian teacher. They discussed what the different elements of the story were, and why they were important.

All the kids enthusiastically held up their hands to add their opinions and angles. A few moments later, the class concentrated on visualizing their own interpretation of the story. It was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop.  

boy holds his hands up
UNICEF/GEO-2019/Robakidze

This is not your typical school day in the country, but public school 123 is taking part in a pilot project set up as the result of a partnership between UNICEF Georgia, the Government of Estonia, and the Government of Georgia. Through newly developed educational software, the kids can create their own stories based on the materials covered in class before.

The idea behind introducing the software to the regular curricula is simple: to include and engage the children in the learning process, and create a learning environment that provides them with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in the 21st century.

Boy at laptop
UNICEF/GEO-2019/Robakidze

Many Georgian schools have struggled innovating, as the emphasis used to be on repetition, discipline, and order. But the new pilot programme is challenging this approach. It is hoped that by introducing innovative education methodologies in 15 different schools in Georgia it is possible to show the real change it can drive. The government plans to expand it to 150 schools this year with the gradual roll-out of the programme to all schools across the country in the following years.  

And at school 123, the project was welcomed with open arms by Headmaster Tamar Losaberidze and the teachers at the school.

“Ten years ago teachers wouldn’t understand the need”

Tamar Losaberidze

“Ten years ago teachers wouldn’t understand the need,” Tamar says about the introduction of the new methodologies and the training the teachers had to undertake, “but right now everyone is extremely enthusiastic about the ability to improve their teaching methods.”

While the bell rings to announce the break in-between classes, the fourth-graders don’t make a peep and continue working on their visual stories. Outside the doors the joyful sounds of kids talking, laughing, walking and running around the hallway can be heard, but it doesn’t bother the class: they’ve got more interesting work to do.

The digital learning programme, which the students are working in, was made by the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia within the scope of the three-year Estonia-Georgia partnership project in general education.

Pupils in class
UNICEF/GEO-2019/Robakidze

Education resources like this digital programme, help teachers to use technology to engage and prepare their students for the future – a digital future.

Ghassan Khalil

"Education resources like this digital programme, help teachers to use technology to engage and prepare their students for the future – a digital future. We hope that soon all schools in Georgia will have the opportunity to teach the children the skills they will need to succeed in the 21st century", says UNICEF Representative Dr. Ghassan Khalil.

For Anna, a nine-year-old who enthusiastically holds up her hand and jumps at any occasion to partake in the class discussion, the programme is “extremely exciting.” She says how she wanted to see the story in reality and that by using the software she was able to do so.

Ana
UNICEF/GEO-2019/Robakidze

And 10-year-old Misha with dark brown curls, says in perfect English that the new software is “really fun” to work with.

But most excited about using the programme is Nikoloz, who loves drawing and playing rugby in his spare time. He passionately retells the story through his digital painting in front of the class.

“I sometimes find it really difficult to remember things, but when I draw, I remember,” he explains, “and now I can remember the story by remembering the drawing I made.”