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Ketso for learning in homes and schools

Ketso has been used successfully in teaching for over 20 years. Here we show you some of the exciting ways people have been using Ketso to support enjoyable and effective education, both at home and at school.

By Joanne Tippett, founder of Ketso.

Before being thrown into the deep end of home-schooling during lockdown, here at the Ketso headquarters we were in the process of pulling together case studies on Ketso in education. We had conversations with amazing educators who have been using Ketso in their schools. These included a Head Teacher of a primary school in Scotland, who has used Ketso with thousands of staff, parents and students over the last few years, a PhD researcher in Australia who has been exploring well-being and learning with high school students, and a teacher of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), who has used Ketso in both stakeholder engagement and Further Education.

Creating ideas and insights, together

Primary, Secondary and Higher Education students can all benefit from Ketso’s methodology.

A common thread that came up during all these conversations was how Ketso helps with two vital aspects of education: inclusiveness, and the quality of thinking and learning experienced by students. The inclusiveness comes from the accessible, physical nature of the kit, combined with a structured process that enables everyone to participate and be heard.

Ketso is visual and you can move the pieces around. Whilst you are doing this, you also engage with the written and spoken word. This very hands-on approach is key to activating learning in different ways and it makes the learning experience better for all the students. It does this by using multiple learning styles at once, while at the same time providing an inclusive approach that is particularly well suited for students who have dyslexia-type challenges, or who learn differently. The fact that everyone is using the kit means that the visual and hands-on approach is part of the learning experience for all, rather than a special adaptation or something that singles particular people out.

In the era of the Coronavirus crisis, finding ways to communicate and connect effectively is more important than ever.

Seeing ideas take shape

Ketso promotes participation, sharing ideas and stimulates ideas

As a lecturer at the University of Manchester, I have had many comments over the years from my own students who experience dyslexia-type challenges and unseen disabilities, about how much they enjoy using Ketso. One comment that struck me came from a post-graduate student with epilepsy: he said that using Ketso was like ‘reversing an epileptic fit – you are able to put all of your ideas back together and see them take shape’. It has been wonderful to hear similar comments from teachers working at every level of teaching, from primary to high school, to further education.

International students have told me Ketso helps them communicate across language barriers. I have also heard from very confident students that they were surprised at how much the tool helped them to find a structure for their essays and group reports. Several of these students have gone on to use Ketso in their individual work, for their writing assignments and revision.

Everyone gets a go

Another element of inclusiveness for learners is the way that Ketso builds in turn-taking and communicating as a group, to create a shared picture of ideas. A key inspiration for me in designing Ketso was to build into the physical nature of the kit a way to make it easier for everyone to have a say – including those who might not feel confident to speak out in a group session. The fact that everyone has a pen and some leaves (for writing their ideas down), and there is a simple process of taking turns to share a leaf at a time and adding it to the workspace, means that each participant can see that everyone else has ideas (leaves) to share. These ways to make sure everyone takes part in the sharing process are a fundamental part of how Ketso works.

It was striking to hear from Jane Mosco, who is doing PhD research on wellbeing and students who identify as learning differently, that she found the Ketso kit did not just promote inclusiveness in the learning process. It also prompted discussion about how students communicate, and steps they can take to make sure that everyone can share ideas.

One ESOL teacher commented: “Normally reserved, shy students were encouraged to actively participate in whole group activities and visibly increased in confidence in expressing their views.” She pointed out that Ketso helped students who spoke English really well deepen their knowledge, but it also provided a way forward for those who were struggling. She added that once students put forward their ideas and shared them on the space, they were able to “see that they were not alone”. Seeing your ideas in the context of others’ ideas helps deepen learning and sense-making.

How to think for results

The second theme that emerged from this exploration of Ketso in schools is around the quality of thinking and learning that it engenders. The use of different colours to ask different kinds of questions prompts students to think about how they think and learn. This encourages them to explore issues in more depth.

Being able to move ideas around under the different headings (branches on the Ketso felt) helps students to probe meanings and deepen their understanding through dialogue. It helps them to understand ideas in new ways, and to see patterns that had not been visible before. They learn to make new connections between ideas and make sense of them within a bigger picture.

Learning in lockdown

Iris exploring and gathering insights on a Ketso felt.

In the era of the Coronavirus crisis, finding ways to communicate and connect effectively is more important than ever.
On a personal note, I have been home-schooling my eight-year old daughter, Iris, and have had the pleasure of seeing her engage with her learning in new ways using Ketso. Iris used Ketso for a History Topic on Ancient Egypt. Writing on leaves, and placing them on a Ketso workspace to map out what she already knew on the subject, built her confidence. It also helped her to identify and celebrate her new learning from the set reading. This was evidenced by her proudly telling me that she already knew that the Egyptians had lots of gods, but did I know that they actually worshipped more than 2000 gods?

Occasionally unplugging from onscreen activities and enjoying some hands-on tasks has helped us to learn together. For instance, in a literacy exercise we explored the characters, plot and emotions in The Boy in the Dress – a book by Iris’ favourite author, David Walliams. Iris set me the homework of reading the book so that we could discuss it together!

Exploring new ways to communicate

The current lockdown has impacted on so many students. For one, it has meant that students around the world are currently cut apart from their peers and fellow learners. Whilst at this time we cannot recreate the full social learning experience of using Ketso in a classroom, we can unplug from the screen and experience some hands-on and off-line learning.

In lockdown, it is imperative to explore new ways to learn and communicate, and in this context, we are developing new ways to use Ketso at home. In the next few months, we look forward to hearing from others who are using Ketso in innovative ways in this new situation, and sharing these more widely.

We are also very excited to think of what innovations in teaching and learning may come as Ketso is used more widely in schools at all levels. If one thing has become clear from this time of physical isolation, there are many ways to learn, but being able to talk to others about ideas and see how your ideas fit in with a bigger picture is an incredible gift, and an opportunity not to be wasted.

If you are a teacher, parent or researching with students, consider the advantages of an inclusive approach, which allows everyone to contribute, supports different learning styles, and even enhances the quality of thinking. See our kits suitable for a variety of learning situations here.

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