Welcome to the Learning Gains through Play project website

Learning through play is a well-known strategy that encourages self-driven learning and involves language-sensitive pedagogies. Ten schools in South Africa were fortunate enough to be supported by the D G Murray Trust to receive banks of Intel tablets for learners and Xbox Kinects to explore these strategies further. The DG Murray Trust and SchoolNet SA aimed to harness the potential of digital apps and Kinect games to expand learner literacies in Grades 1 and R through focusing on play.

In Year 2 of the project, we reported that teachers were excited to discover that digital games had been able to assist them to achieve the outcomes listed in CAPS. Teachers used apps and games to identify teachable moments and stealth learning opportunities which triggered learners’ imaginations and targeted specific literacies.

After year 3 of the project, the findings reported overwhelming evidence that the intervention had impacted positively on learner performance.  Learners in project schools had improved in all foundational literacies but the most striking improvement was recorded in the acquisition of oral second language English.

The D G Murray Trust extended the grant funding to focus exclusively on the acquisition of oral English in 2017. Again the findings proved to be significant and therefore the DG Murray Trust extended the grant again into 2018 and 2019 in order to research whether the project learners were at an advantage to cope with Grade 4 where the language of learning and teaching changes to English and where more subjects are added to their curriculum.

Professional Development Courses

chooseOver the first 3 years of the project, teachers at the ten project schools completed a wide bouquet of professional development courses. The forerunner was the Change Leadership course for Senior Management Teams which paved the way for whole school support for the project and assisted management members to deal with the challenges that arise when technologies are first introduced to a school. The first course for all Grade 1 and Grade R teachers focused on effective strategies for using tablets in the classroom. They then moved on to using the Xbox Kinect effectively for teaching and for achieving the outcomes of the life skills curriculum, specifically the perceptual skills in the Physical Education CAPS.  The content for all the courses is available online from the ‘Our Courses” links above.

Research Findings in Year 2

In all three years of the project,  Grade R and Grade 1 learners remained being tested in those two cohorts. There can obviously be variations in the skill levels of cohorts of learners from year to year because they are different children. Therefore the one cohort that will have been tested in each year of the project will be Grade R learners in 2014 who were in Grade 1 in 2015, Grade 2 in 2016 and will reach Grade 4 only in 2019. Here is a data visualisation of the most significant findings from year 2:


To read more about the details of the evaluation studies from 2014,  click here, 2015 click here, 2016 click here and for reports on the 2017 research click here.


What we do!

School Net South Africa has had the privilege to be funded from 2014 – 2017 by the D.G. Murray Trust to study the benefits to learning through the use of play and innovative technologies for learners in grades R and 1 in ten schools in two provinces in South Africa; in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

The D.G. Murray Trust has determined that the greatest impact can be made in the early primary years and that the focus of this project should be on play. Hence the selection of Kinect games and Android Apps.

Workshops were provided throughout the initiative, for Senior Management Teams in Change Leadership as well as in professional development for all Grade R and 1 teachers in all 10 schools. Face-to-face support in classrooms was included, as well as on-going online support.  To ensure the sustainability of the professional development all Grade R and Grade 1 teachers participated in a Peer Coaching programme.

Government officials responsible for learning in the district of their respective provinces were invited to all workshops.  The Western Cape Metro East officials were exceptionally supportive, even running some of the workshops.

The Change Leadership workshops aimed to alert management teams to the new possibilities afforded by innovative teaching and learning techniques, as well as giving an oversight of the project and being effective information sharing sessions.

The evaluation of the learning gains followed a developmental approach where the project was tracked and documented and where the evaluators worked closely with the project team to interpret and adapt as the project progressed.

The evaluation was therefore continually influenced by the implementation. Baseline data for literacies, as well as cognitive and motor coordination were compared with data for successive years subsequent to the use of innovative technologies across the curriculum.


    The latest news is that the D G Murray Trust has awarded SchoolNet SA a grant to study the performance of project learners and how they cope with the changes that come with entry into Grade 4 where the language of learning and teaching changes to English and where new subjects are introduced.  The older cohort will be tested in 2018 and the younger cohort – who were in Grade R in 2014 will be tested at the beginning of their Grade 4 year in 2019.

    The Badging Concept

    • Not only does the Learning Gains project use play-based strategies as a vehicle for learning, but also another key factor in the design of this project is an element of gamification built into the professional development strategies in the form of badging. The badging… Read more…

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