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I Pads for Learning

I Pads for Learning

Author: Curtis Buren


The current study is designed to explore young children’s use of touch screen devices and currently available Apps, and contribute to the general body of knowledge on children’s use of touch screen technology. Specifically, the study is designed to increase understanding of the iPad’s potential for use as an educational tool by young children (two- to eight-year-olds).

 Executive Summary


Background and Objectives Touch screen technology has introduced a first generation of tools that afford remarkable access and potential for creative use. This study posits three hypotheses:

1.  Touch screen technology allows younger children (two years old and older) to access and play productively with a sophisticated media technology platform;

2.  Scientific knowledge is needed about how young children (ages two-to-eight) approach, play, and learn with touch screen devices as well as how children master the challenges of age appropriate Applications (Apps);

3. Research is needed to identify the components that comprise the App anatomy, including the specific Components that is salient for learning and creation of effective educational Apps.


The Michael Cohen Group LLC (MCG) is currently the evaluation partner for Project UMIGO* and project LAMP**, two partnerships awarded Ready to Learn cooperative agreements in 2010 by the U.S. Department of Education.  The focus of Ready to Learn is the optimal utilization of media for education.


Both Projects UMIGO and LAMP are developing educational Trans -media properties for children age’s two to eight.  MCG as evaluation partner is responsible for formative research to inform the creation of educational media properties as well as summative assessments of educational effectiveness of those properties.


These Trans-media properties in development include the Apps for touch screen devices such as Apple’s iPad.  IPads have been in the market for approximately a year and little research has been conducted on young children’s usage of touch screen devices. In order to best support LAMP and UMIGO and to contribute to the emerging body of literature on touch screen technology (in this study iPads), MCG has undertaken this study to explore young children’s and their caregivers’ perceptions and use of iPads and Apps.

Methodology In order to address these hypotheses, MCG conducted qualitative research with sixty (60) children two-to-eight years old.  Children participated in one-on-one in-depth interviews (IDIs) and observations.

Parents/caregivers (in this study) participated in small focus group interviews (FGIs) * WTTW (Chicago Public Television), W! LDBRAIN Entertainment Inc., Michael Cohen Group LLC. ** Hispanic Information & Telecommunications Network (HITN), Callaway Digital Arts, Michael Cohen Group LLC.  Young Children, Apps & iPad 2 completed a survey questionnaire.   Research was conducted during February and March 2011.

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Learning with IPads

Summary and Implications

Findings indicate that children as young as two years old access play and learn using touch screen devices.
Touch screen technology and accompanying digital Apps offer an accessible and meaningful media platform for children:
The iPad’s large touch screen provides easy access and allows for sustained engagement;
Children’s initial reaction to touch screen devices is characterized by fascination and immediate engagement, and is shaped by:
Child’s developmental level, previous experience with touch screen devices, and the App interface design and game/play;
4. Learning and different types of Apps;
5. Barriers to use and learning;
6. Apps taxonomy.