A Qualitative Examination of Two Year-Olds Interaction with Tablet Based Interactive Technology

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to observe children naturally interacting with these touch screen devices. Little direct instruction was given to the children on the use of the devices however an adult did assist when needed. The device was introduced to the children as would be any other educational material such as play-dough, new items in the dramatic play center, or new media in the sensory table. Teachers assisted children when needed, but facilitated and promoted the use of exploratory behavior to learn about and use these devices.

The findings from the collected data for part 1 and part 2 of this study were surprisingly consistent. The themes and trends that were observed in the participant observation single subject case study were also evident in the group setting.


Young children today will not remember a time when there was not an Internet, laptops and pad-based computers. It is a part of their life experience. Many of the adults who teach them, however, grew up when none of this was available. This leads to a generational gap. This is a generation that expects to actively participate in and through their media, hence the decrease in time spent by teens in viewing television and the corresponding increase in time spent on computers, gaming, and the Internet (Beyers, 2009).

The use of a traditional keyboard based devices such as a computer or laptop requires a certain level of physical and motor development to use a keyboard and/or a mouse. Use of keyboard-based devices also requires a level of cognitive development to understand the symbols on the keyboard. Therefore, for a child to make a keyboard based device do what they want to do; they first need to decipher the interface.

The advent of touch screen devices removes this barrier and allows children as young as two years old (perhaps younger) to easily interact with these devices in a productive manner. Being productive on any device means that the child understands what is asked of them, understands how to interface with the device and understands the action needed to produce a response from the device (Couse & Chen, 2010). Here is an example of a child in the current study aged 2 years 2 months using an Apple iPad:

Mike (2y2m) comes to the iPad, which is turned off Mike approaches the adult:

MIKE: "Michael want shapes game"

Mike has interacted with this game before. He was introduced to the game at 2 years of age, but was not coerced or forced to use the program by an adult. All of his interactions with the device were instigated by his choice. The adult finds the icon and taps it as Mike watches. The game starts.

GAME: "Touch the Circle"

MIKE: "Michael touch the circle!"

GAME: "You touched the circle!" [applause]

MIKE: "Michael want a semi-circle"

GAME: "Touch the triangle"

MIKE: "Semi-circle" Mike touches the semi-circle

GAME: "That's a semi-circle. Try again! Touch the triangle"

MIKE: Mike touches the triangle

GAME: "You found the triangle!" [applause]. "You earned a sticker"

MIKE "Michael want the bus" [selects the bus]

GAME "Put the sticker on the page"

MIKE: "Michael put it right here"

GAME: [applause]

MIKE: [Claps] "YAAAAY"

[Insert Video About here]

This interaction is natural to the toddler. The machine asks for an action (touch) and the child makes a cognitive decision and acts by touching a selection. The child did not have to manipulate a mouse around a screen or decipher a keyboard to enter commands. The child simply interacted in a very natural and developmentally appropriate way with the device. This is the real innovation of these devices. Their interface is intuitive so that little or no instruction is needed for even the youngest children to use them.

The purpose of this study was to observe children naturally interacting with these touch screen devices. …


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