Kids and iPhones: New Study Talks about Positive Incorporation of New Media into Early Education

January 25, 2012

Kids and iPhones: New Study Talks about Positive Incorporation of New Media into Early Education

[caption id="attachment_983" align="alignleft" width="190" caption="Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono"][/caption] If you have an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad and a little kid, the chorus of “can I play?” is probably a familiar one to you already. As the New Media continues to dominate every aspect of our daily lives and mobile devices become more and more accessible, the use of such tools by children as young as 1 and 2 is not uncommon. I’m a bit ashamed to admit that my 16-month-old already says “iPaaaaaa.” As teachers and parents, knowing what apps are acceptable, if any, among young children can be tough. That is why research fellows at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, Cynthia Chiong and Carly Shuler, began a project in 2009 that would become the report, “Learning: Is There an App for That?” The results of that study, released in November of 2010, are just now making the rounds of early education blogs and the findings will astound you.   Target: Preschool As Shuler explained in a recent podcast with The New America Foundation’s Lisa Guernsey, the principle research into learning apps in Apple’s iTunes store was based on mere curiosity. Yet, what they found was far better than they imagined:
  • Of the top 100 apps in iTunes’ Educational category, 47 were targeted at children, most especially preschool-aged children.
  • Of the top 25 educational apps, 60% were targeted at preschoolers and toddlers.
What this told Chiong and Shuler was what the app business already knew: kids use these devices all the time, so we need to cater to them. Shuler posits that it is a combination of the long standing “I want to be just like Mommy” complex (think, mini-kitchens and vacuums) and the appeal of a touch screen that lure kids in. It is the ease of the “pass back” effect, in which an adult literally passes his or her device to their child, that gets parents to participate in this shared media as well. Findings Are Mostly Positive Like anything new, many people are obviously skeptical about the influence that these New Media devices will have on children and their ability to supplant, rather than supplement, the learning process. However, much like its early predecessor Sesame Street educational apps are showing a positive effect on children’s learning when used at a developmentally appropriate level. Shuler recommends that parents and teachers keep an open mind about the inclusion of apps in a child’s life and education, and realize that, just like Sesame Street and shows like it, positive learning experiences can emerge from New Media play, especially when it is coupled with parental oversight. Teachers especially should research apps at independent agencies such as Common Sense Media and rely on old standbys such as Sesame Workshop and Duck, Duck, Goose, and be ready with a list of recommendations for parents that are targeted at the learning goals of that age group. If You Can’t Beat ‘Em… The moral of the app story is simple: kids are using  apps, they want to use apps, as responsible educators it is our job to capitalize on this and use it to the advantage of curriculum goals and social-emotional development. Use of apps should be categorized like any media and therefore limited in time and scope, and parents and teachers alike should be aware that non-educational content can and is marketed as educational. Like any outside influence on a child, the use of an app should be closely monitored. The best results that Chiong and Shuler found were when parents and teachers reinforced the learning goals of an app after the device was shut down. Most of all, one of the best advantages of using the iPhone or iPad to engage a child is when it occurs at times of lull, such as in the car or doctor’s office waiting room. This is a great way to add educational moments into everyday life.



Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.