A Qualitative Examination of Social Interaction during Cooperative Computer Activities

By Hsu, I. -Chen; Geist, Eugene A. | Education, Winter 2012 | Go to article overview

A Qualitative Examination of Social Interaction during Cooperative Computer Activities


Hsu, I. -Chen, Geist, Eugene A., Education


Since the mid-1980s when computers began to be introduced into classrooms, there have been dramatic changes in education. Increasing numbers of teachers use computers to facilitate their curriculum and classroom activities (Macaruso & Walker, 2008; Zevenbergen, 2007; Spooner, 2004; Stephen & Plowman, 2008). With the advent of social media, smart boards and pad based this trend is expected to increase. Some researchers and teachers have debated the appropriate age at which children should be introduced to computers (ABC News, 2010). Some research has demonstrated that preschoolers can benefit if using computers in developmentally appropriate ways (Schmid, Miodrag, & Di Francesco, 2008; Stephen & Plowman, 2008; Buckleitner, 2007). Other research researchers either claim that there is simply not enough research detailing the impact that computers have on the development of young children's minds and bodies or claim that computers can have an outright negative effect on development (Ferguson, 2005; Klerfelt, 2004; Elkind 1996).

Elkind (1987) even stated that the use of computers in preschool "... is a good example of miseducation" (p. 87). One of the concerns is that computers may lead to isolation, diminished social interaction, and deficiencies in language (Barnes & Hill, 1983). Healy (1998) is concerned that when young children spend an overabundance of time with computers,the development of the child's brain may be impeded by a lack of social interaction with others. Anecdotally, the researchers have noticed that many parents feel the same way about the use of computers and video games with their own children.

On the other side of the debate, research has demonstrated that preschoolers can benefit if using computers in developmentally appropriate ways (Macaruso & Walker, 2008; Sarama & Clements, 2007; Schwall, 2005). The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC),has endorsed the importance of computers for children in preschool (NAEYC, 1996). According to NAEYC, computers can be an integral and inevitable component in the early childhood classroom if used in a developmentally

appropriate manner. Many researchers are finding that a new generation of children is interacting with computers in very different ways than in the past. This is also aided by a new generation of touch screen and hand held devices that actually promote interaction in the same way that reading a book can. This evidence suggests that computers have been found to help children with cognitive, verbal skills, concrete experiences, long-term memory, and social-emotional growth when successfully applied in developmentally appropriate classrooms (Papert, 1998 Ljung-Djarf, 2008; Macaruso & Walker, 2008; Stephen & Plowman, 2008).

The present study attempts to study the types of social interactions that take place when preschool children interact with computers. The conventional wisdom is that computer play is solitary or parallel play at best and discourages social interaction and interaction amongst peers. An opposing view contends that computers stimulate discussion and social play using new media, and while a different paradigm from traditional play, the benefits are the same. This study attempts to address the following questions:

1. What kind of social interaction occurs when children are using the computers for play or work?

2. What are the patterns of collaborative interaction when children are engaged collaboratively with the computer?

3. How is the activity on the computer influencing the children's social-emotional development?

Methodology

This research study was conducted at a University laboratory school. The participants are 52 children (31 boys and 21 girls) ages of subjects were from 3 to 5. They were exposed to play on computers for at least 6 months before this study began. A pre-observational parent survey showed that 95% of the children have computers at home and 100% of parents report that their children have experiences with playing on the computer. …

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