Children are growing up in an increasingly digital age, surrounded by digital media in the home, nursery and at school. Screen media has the potential to provide a valuable source of language input and educational entertainment for young children. For example, apps that promote active, engaged, meaningful and socially interactive learning have the potential to educate young children (Hirsh-Pasek, Zosh, Golinkoff, Gray, Robb & Kaufman, 2015). While 72% of apps aimed at children are classed as “educational” (Shuler, Levine & Ree, 2012), there is little research evidence to back up or contradict these claims. Clearer evidence and guidelines for children’s educational apps would provide invaluable knowledge for caregivers, early years practitioners and children’s app developers.
The aim of this project is to investigate children’s language learning apps to develop a scientific understanding of the app marketplace and to apply developmental theories of learning, memory and language acquisition to the development of educational touchscreen apps. The proposed project will combine a systematic review of the children’s educational app marketplace with a series of empirical studies to explore how children learn language from touchscreen apps and digital media. The first phase of this project, a systematic review of the app marketplace, will determine the educational potential for apps currently available to children using theories of language acquisition. These findings will then guide a series of empirical studies investigating children’s app interaction and language learning outcomes. Furthermore, we will determine the role of caregiver interaction during children’s app use on children’s language learning outcomes to provide evidence on the American Academy of Pediatrics (2016) recommendation for parental co-use during children’s screen media use. Across these studies, this project will advance our understanding of educational touchscreen apps designed to teach children language by providing evidence-based guidelines for touchscreen apps.
Team: Gemma Taylor, Padraic Monaghan (Lancaster University) and Joanna Kolak