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Bonhoeffer College engages students with game-based learning

  • Lanier Norville By

Students at Bonhoeffer College, a secondary school in the Netherlands, are using iPads and Apple TV to create engaging multimedia presentations and complete group assignments with games like Minecraft. Teachers upload resources and assignments to the e-learning environment “itslearning,” which students can access to view assignments, share materials and turn in work.

Bonhoeffer College has six campuses and 4,500 students, many of whom bring their own iPads from home to use in the classroom. Bonhoeffer’s IT department uses AirWatch to manage both BYOD and school-owned devices across campuses.

“iPads enable us to integrate 21st century technology into our curriculum,” says Femke Gerritsen, a teacher and information and communication technology (ICT) coordinator at Bonhoeffer College. “We can create an interactive and engaging learning environment where students learn, create and present their work with the help of multimedia.” In addition to accessing the school’s e-learning environment, students and teachers use iPads to access email and download educational apps and e-books from the Apple App Store.

Of all the apps Bonhoeffer makes available for download, Minecraft may be the students’ favorite. The wildly popular game can also encourage collaborative learning. One Bonhoeffer teacher had students use Minecraft in multiplayer mode to build castles. The assignment allowed students to both explore basic engineering principles and build technical literacy.

Bonhoeffer’s use of Minecraft represents an emerging trend in schools: digital game-based education. An organization called MinecraftEdu is working to make the licenses more affordable and available to schools everywhere. The organization has created a suite of tools to help teachers use Minecraft for educational purposes.

Though teachers have been engaging students with gamification techniques and rewards for decades, a digital environment introduces new challenges. To ensure students stay on task, the IT team at Bonhoeffer uses AirWatch to restrict access to some applications and device features.  IT administrators use AirWatch Wi-Fi controls to create a geofence that limits the device’s camera, FaceTime and some applications within the campus’s perimeter. When students take their devices off campus after school, full device functionality is automatically restored.

“AirWatch helps us to restrict the learning environment to keep students focused and to provide them with educational content and apps,” Gerritsen says.

AirWatch’s flexible, multi-OS platform will also support the school’s expanding BYOD program. This year, the IT team at Bonhoeffer expects to enroll a total of 1,800 iPads into AirWatch. Administrators are also considering expanding the school’s mobile fleet to include Android and Windows 8 devices.

Bonhoeffer plans to use Apple’s Volume Purchase Program to purchase apps in bulk – such as Minecraft and more traditional educational apps – which will be available to students in a customized app store, along with recommended public and free apps that have been hand-picked by Bonhoeffer faculty.

Audrey Williart contributed reporting to this story

Lanier Norville

Lanier Norville

Lanier Norville has been writing and editing for online publications for six years. Before joining AirWatch, she was the editor of three medical technology magazines including the award-winning publication TechNation.

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