Mark Anderson: Next up we have Mark Nicholls joining us from LiteracyPlanet. Welcome to the show Mark, how are you doing this evening?
Mark Nicholls: Hi guys, really good thanks, really good to be on here.
Al Kingsley: Good to see you Mark. How would you feel about changing your company name and adding a “The” on the beginning, just for consistency tonight?
MN: [laughs] The LiteracyPlanet. Yeah, why not. Let’s do it. Sounds good.
AK: Good to see you on the show. Mark, do you want to kick it off?
MA: Yeah, absolutely, brilliant stuff, thank you Al. Welcome to the show as I said Mark, lovely to have you on here this evening. For those who don’t know, what is Literacy… or, The LiteracyPlanet?
MN: As I say, great to be on. Alway good to talk to new people and new audiences. I’m Mark, I’m the head of UK for LiteracyPlanet. What we do is we strive to make learning English and literacy in particular as fun as possible for students. We provide an online platform for both primary school students and secondary school students where they can log in and play hundreds of games across phonics, sight words, reading for comprehension, grammar, spelling and punctuation as well. So for students in essence what we try to provide is something which is fun and engaging and is going to keep them wanting to keep coming back and logging on and using it. And for teachers, to try and provide something which gives them an extra resource and more material that can really help them help their students improve their literacy levels.
AK: That’s brilliant. I think in every school we know literacy’s the key to unlock so many other subjects as well. How would you position in terms of the differentiators in your solution Mark. What are the main bits you’d want to highlight?
MN: Really for us, there’s a few. The biggest one is the gamification aspect. Our games are genuinely fun to play right across from early years foundation all the way through to Key Stage 3. Our material goes all the way through those levels. Not all of our activities are academic. Some of them are side games, reward games that students can play. More akin to games that they may experience on non-educational programs. But they’re all there to keep them wanting to come back and using it. It’s obviously really important that students take that iPad or Chromebook out of their rucksack and use the resource that’s being provided to them, otherwise it’s not going to be doing anything. So keeping it fun for students is key. Other ways we do that, we run competitions regularly for our schools which subscribe to us. One of our games is called Word Morph. It’s a word building game. So sometimes we, or I, will set a score and send that out to all of our schools and any students that beat that, we’ll send them a certificate and we can give them prizes as well. The scores are never that high by the way if I’m setting them. Customisation as well. Students have a lot of control on LiteracyPlanet. They can create their own spelling lists on there, they can put their own words into any game. They can select what games they play. So they’re not always at the mercy of what their teacher has given them or what the platform is providing them. They have a lot of control of the type of content and what they’re working on. And I think in terms of the content as well, yes we provide activities around phonics and sight words and reading for comprehension and spelling, also a key thing we provide is hundreds of hours of content around grammar and punctuation as well. And that’s right the way through from EYFS through to Key Stage 3 as I say. A lot of schools come to us looking for more resources in that particular area and it’s something we can provide. For teachers, they can get very very specific in terms of the concepts that they can assign out and really target specific students with very specific concepts and get very granular with it, which a lot of our teachers really like to be able to do.
AK: Just listening to your answers there Mark, what about in terms of accessibility and breadth of the games you provide. I’m thinking of SEND and EAL learners. How broad a gamut of different activities do you provide?
MN: It’s very broad. We work with primary and secondary in particular, a lot of SEN departments and SEN schools as well use us. Again it comes back to that engagement factor. A lot of the games we have on the platform are not not always academically based. So students can play their academic games, there’s a wide range of content and something really for everyone to be able to keep wanting to come on and having fun. Then they get these rewards and things that they can go and play, some of these games which are not academic. They’ve always got to go and play the academic games. They’ve got to earn gems to be able to play and, for example, go in the arcade. But it really feels like it’s a game which is not necessarily educational. We get a lot of feedback from our schools, SEN departments and SEN schools using us, really do come to us for that reason.
MA: Brilliant. Thank you very much Mark. We haven’t got very long left now but the final question we always share and ask is how it all best supports or serves your audience. You’ve given lots of compelling reasons in your responses so far but is there anything else you wanted to add around that question?
MN: No, I think for primary schools its instilling that love of learning around love of literacy really early on and helping them bridge that gap between primary and secondary which we know can be such an issue for a lot of students and being able to give them something else that they can go through and take with them and carry their licence through to their secondary school if they need to. And for secondary schools, again it’s coming down to engagement. Getting those Year 7 and Year 8 students motivated to log on. It’s not always going to be their motivation to improve their use of the semicolon but if they can go and access the arcade and beat their friends in some of these games with their scores then they’ll be much more motivated to do it. We have a lot more success with that.
AK: Brilliant. Thank you. And where do people find out more, Mark?
MN: So they can go to literacyplanet.com and find out and sign up for more information or trials and our Linkedin and Twitter pages as well. And we’re also running a free spelling competition in March, free for any schools to enter. They can find out more information on our website. And they can compete against other schools around the UK, so we’re really excited for that.
MA: Brilliant. Thank you very much for coming on and sharing on the show this evening Mark. Thank you very much.
MN: Cheers guys!
Watch the full recording of the show here (the best part starts at 18:51!).