Monday, 22 April 2019

Digital Sandbox Time - 10 Reasons to Give it a Go

I will often have ideas in mind for the use of a new or different app. It's always exciting to see what students can do with something new because even more ideas for its use can pop up. What can be a struggle though is trying to explicitly teach 20+ children how to use an app at the same time. It's a nightmare, as some students naturally take their time, some rush ahead and then don't know what to do, others just would rather explore it on their own. When this happens, students get stressed and confused and the teacher does too. This is why I like to have Digital Sandbox time when introducing something new.

Digital Sandbox time is one of my favourite things to do with my students when they are trying out a new app. Essentially, this time is for the students to open the app and simply explore, be curious and learn on their own. It caters for every student as it is self-paced and without restriction. Normally, I would begin the session with a quick introduction to the app and explain to them that they have ten minutes to go and play with it to find out what can be done. I have only one rule in Digital Sandbox time; you can not ask the teacher for help. It's the only time I put that rule on my students because this is their time to find something new out.

So, I wanted to share my top ten reasons that Digital Sandbox time is a must for any teacher:

  1. Students have freedom to explore, be curious and play
  2. Students can work at their own pace - no more wasting time with teacher lead instruction on how to work an app
  3. Drives student engagement
  4. Gives your students a greater source of resources to use and gives them greater choice in how to present their work
  5. Obviously, some students will learn a lot more than others. These students are a gem to have around because they become the experts. They will want to teach others the amazing things they learnt themselves. Again, a big driver of student engagement as well as relieving the pressure off you to know everything. I call these my 'Techsperts'
  6. For teachers that don't feel confident using technology, this is a good chance to be vulnerable. Tell your students you're not comfortable with technology or a particular app and have some students teach you. Students love to teach the teacher
  7. Develops multi-modal learning strategies. People learn best when they use multi-sensory options and apps usually include different elements such as picture, animation or audio
  8. Further develop your students Digital Literacy skills. The technical aspects of learning new apps are transferable skills that they will use time and time again throughout their lives
  9. It's a good chance for the teacher to observe their students. Who is working alone? Who is helping others? Who is excited by this? Who is struggling? I find Digital Sandbox time a great chance to see differences in my students, especially those that are often disengaged with learning. This time is also perfect to just stop and check in with students that you might not otherwise have time to do
  10. It's surprisingly collaborative. I absolutely love seeing my students exploring something new for the first time. I love to hear the excited chatter and hearing students showing off what they've discovered and hearing things like, "Oh My gosh, look at this" or, "Wow! How did you do that, can you show me?". I have never had a quiet Digital Sandbox time.

I'd love to hear your stories about trialling some Digital Sandbox time in your classrooms. What has worked well for you or what could you do differently. What have been your successes with it? 


  1. Love this for teachers and students, such a cool name and often leads to different expectations - went to a PD about Design Thinking Sandbox at a school and got there to find they were talking about actually making sandboxes for the school - LOL.

    I went to a weekend opening of a library Makerspace day and started sewing with kids doing craft, I called up by Arduino buddy and he rode his bike there from his house with a back pack full of wearables and conductive thread - they maybe didn’t appreciate me hacking the event,

    This really works in robotics, I had three kits Dash, Bluebots and LEGO WeDo - 10 of each and we just played all week in different classes. I completely changed my plans on how to teach it and took out half of my furniture to make zones.

    I did also did one for teachers on the last day of term, got in a Green Screen guy and we ended up playing with AR - chased the Principal and Deputy Principal down the street as they were leaving with iPads and doing an elevator pitch - they literally thought we were mad.

    I love taking stuff home from expos and often leave with a robotics kit to pull apart.

    1. Thanks Russell. You're right, it is great for teachers as well as students and use it often when I run PD. That sounds wicked about the Arduino hack - surely they loved it :)

      I've also used Sandbox time with our robotics. I guess you could do it with almost anything - digital or not.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Russell.


  2. russell its not new - sandboxing is a old programming term for experimentation

    1. Yes, you're right. I couldn't remember where I'd heard the term before.

  3. I have provided some breakfast before school for staff if they came along