Apps and Preschoolers

young child w ipad.jpgI really enjoy my iPad, but I don’t feel it’s appropriate for young children! Here’s a statistic: “72 percent of iTunes’ top-selling “education” apps are designed for preschoolers and elementary school children, according to a recent report from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.” Of course, research hasn’t yet determined whether children are actually learning anything. But here’s a fascinating piece from one of the studies:

Researchers from Georgetown University had three groups of 30- to36-month old children watch puppets pop out of places in a laundry room: children in one group passively watched it on video, those in the second group watched but had to push the space bar to get the puppets to pop out, and the third group watched the same live action through a square hole the size of a screen.

When taken into the actual room and asked to find where the puppets were located, researchers found that the video-watchers went through a process of trial-and-error before they succeeded. But those who had played the interactive game or watched the live demonstration did quite well, with most going straight for the right place.

The analysis discussed that the interactive quality made all the difference (perhaps attracting the child’s attention), but I was most interested in the fact that the “live action” did just as well. What is there about “aliveness” that engages children and keeps their attention and fosters learning without having to have bells and whistles?
This study was quoted in the May 2, 2012 article posted on Future Tense, “Can Your Preschooler Learn Anything From an iPad App?” by Lisa Guernsey, at www.slate.com

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