Digital Learning: Quality Is In The Medium
August 28th, 2017 | by SRC
Technology continues to be introduced at staggering rates into our youngest learners’ lives. From ABCmouse to Leapfrog, a number of parents and families might find that new technologies are quality supplements to their child’s learning. After all, apps and other digital platforms can be great at capturing children’s attention.
With back-to-school season among us, many children are likely to walk into their classrooms having had a summer full of unstructured technology-based play and learning. However, as many of us reminisce about a time in which computers started replacing pen and paper, our youngest learners are developing during a time in which technology seems eager to replace key tasks caretakers once performed. This begs the question that many education professionals have been asking—does the use of technology support or hinder children’s learning?
In May, a New York University(NYU) study found that young children can derive just as much information from a digitally delivered story as from an adult reading a physically bound book. To determine this, researchers had 38 preschool children, ages 3 to 4, listen to 4 storybooks— two interactive digital books, and two books read aloud by adults. According to Susan B. Neuman, the studies coauthor and professor of childhood and literacy education at NYU Steinhardt, “There are certain features in video that might enhance word learning, especially for children with limited vocabulary.”
Even so, the study demonstrated that when a story was perceived as not motivating or difficult, neither the digital platforms or human-based interactions showed an ability to increase children’s comprehension. This indicates that the impact on learning lies in the quality of the source, not the medium.
Since quality is key, what should we keep in mind for our youngest learners? NYU’s researchers made clear that nothing can rival benefits derived from human interactions. If opting for a digital device, content makes a difference. Moreover, talking to young learners about the content before, during, and after its use is vital— especially for children under 2. Such actions can mitigate the potential harm caused by “video deficit,” a research phrase used to describe how studies have demonstrated that children benefit more from live interactions than with videos.
It’s vital to remember that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time (other than video-chatting) for children under 18 months. For children 18-24 months old, be sure to choose digital sources of high quality and engage with them. Children 2-5 years old should be limited to 1 hour of high-quality screen time per day. Consistent limits should be placed on children over 6-years-old when determining the amount of time spent with a digital device and the type of media consumed.
We should also keep in mind that this concept of proper technology usage in early learning is still nascent, and more studies will unfold to further support educators and families. Though young children can derive just as much information from a quality digitally delivered story as from an adult reading a physically bound book, there are still benefits in reading one-on-one or in small groups with our youngest learners. The human connection will always be an unparalleled method of learning.
Written by Darya Nicol, School Readiness Consulting