As mobile devices march toward ubiquity, they’re finding their way into the hands of our earliest learners. Just as parents and educators questioned the quality of children’s television content in its early days, so are they beginning to ask questions about the quality of mobile device content aimed at children.
The article presents a case for the role of evidence-based mobile apps in learning.
Mobile device usage is increasing
– Research firm Asymco predicts that between 2017 and 2018, smartphones will be the only mobile phones that americans use.
– During the December 2011 gift-giving season, the number of adults that owned a tablet device in the U.S. nearly doubled from 10% to 19%.
– By January 2012, less than two years after Apple introduced the first iPad, one in five U.S. adults owned a tablet.
Nelsen survey indicated that 70% of tablet owning households with children under the age of 12 who say kids use the device.
– 77% children use their tables to play games.
– 57% children use their tables for educational apps.
– 55% parents who own tablets use them to entertain their children while traveling.
– 43% children use their tablets for viewing television shows and movies.
– 41% parents who entertain their children with tablets at restaurants.
Mobile device use amongst children is growing
– Another study indicated that nearly 38 percent of all children under the age of eight have used a cell phone, or other mobile device to play games, use apps or watch videos, TV shows or movies.
Can a mobile device be used as an educational tool?
– Mobile devices have operating systems that are purpose-built for media consumption and intuitive, easy-to-use user interfaces.
– They’re lightweight and easy for even toddlers to handle. They can be loaded with apps that entertain, amuse, and educate their users.
– They can entertain and educate children with the parent or when the parent needs to handle daily chores, enjoy meal in restaurant, take cross-country car ride or plane flight in peace.
Reports and statements on children education apps
The New Media Consortium’s (NMC) 2012 Horizon Report names mobile devices, apps and tablet computing as emerging technologies with profound potential effects on K-12 teaching and learning. It predicts that the impact on mobile devices and apps will be widespread in the classroom in less than a year.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media issued a joint position statement on the role of technology in early learning:
“When used intentionally and appropriately technology and interactive media are effective tools to support learning and development.”
“Intentional use requires early childhood teachers and administrators to have information and resources regarding the nature of these tools and the implications of their use with children.”
Education and learning apps
More than 80% of the best-selling paid apps in the iTunes Store’s education category are targeted towards children.
How could educational mobile content be improved?
– Beimers et al. advocate for education standard setting based on the concept of evidence-based medicine, which combines the best available clinical evidence derived from scientific research with individual clinical expertise.
– Establishing clear standards and benchmarks for content potentially provide objective ways to evaluate the educational value of mobile media.
Case study: emeeyou’s evidence-based early learning application
emeeyou has developed a research approach grounded in evidence-based medicine to verify the developmental benefit of its early learning application. The application is designed to build motor and cognitive skills and encourages the use of multiple languages to continue to challenge the child once learning tasks in a native language have been mastered.
After playing jungle adventure for 5-10 minutes each day for three weeks research results showed that:
– 31% of the children tested improved their knowledge of colors by 2 or more.
– 45% of the children tested improved picture naming skill level by an average of more than 8 months.
– 38% of the children tested improved object assembly skill level by an average of more than 10 months.
Apps for children should be fun, they can entertain and they have the potential to educate. Research based educational content that is tested and validated can provide parents and educators with an objective way to evaluate mobile apps and their potential benefits for early learning.