In my last post (The Resources of PARadise – September 2013) I stressed the importance for tutors of having the best available teaching materials, and described the Maths programs that Tuition Canterbury (and other like centres in the UK, Australia and New Zealand) license as our main workhorse for that subject.
In this I will introduce the English of OutLearn Educational programs – which, like PAR, is from New Zealand, but quite different in operation and appearance.
First, the name OutLearn and in particular the idea contained in the prefix, out-.
It is the out- of ‘so as to exceed, surpass’ as in outdo, outplay – and is meant to suggest the building of confidence and hastening of progress. Thus the author, Janelle Gould, captures the purpose to which she has long been committed (she runs three South Island tuition centres, Geraldine, Timaru and Temuka).
So how does this initiative from New Zealand make its way into 30 centres in the UK? OutLearn was introduced to me as to others in this country through membership of the APTC (Association of Professional Tuition Centres) in 2011. Indeed OutLearn and the APTC were both born at about the same time (2010) – and it made sense on both sides to support each other’s projects. For two years OutLearn was bundled with membership of the Association, and UK members’ requirements have helped shape some of OutLearn’s contents.
Reading, Spelling, Comprehension, Phonics, Syllables, Punctuation, Proof-reading, Vocabulary and Grammar comprise the domains – and the whole program has been enlivened with an on-screen buddy – a ‘South Park’-looking figure (see below) whose gender and appearance the student can change as he or she earns coins for completed exercises. This device proves a popular motivator.
As with the Maths program discussed previously, everything on computer has its counterpart ready to print for written home (or centre) work; and as with PARadise, so with OutLearn, the author is a working tutor who can be contacted directly by email. Janelle welcomes suggestions and feedback, and any genuine errors or difficulties that users report are promptly attended to.
Syllabuses – national and institutional – are continually subject to alteration. Skills on the other hand are slower to change, being founded on permanent principles, or practices and traditions that evolve only gradually over generations. As a skills-based construct, OutLearn will firmly support a syllabus in New Zealand, the UK, or indeed anywhere where Standard British English is the medium of schooling.
A tutor’s friend – and a useful and enjoyable resource, I hope, for many years to come.