Most preschool math, literacy apps not designed to help children learn, study finds | 9/20/2018 | Staff
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Most literacy and math educational apps for preschoolers are not designed to help youngsters actually learn, according to a new study from the University of California, Irvine. Few incorporate features informed by evidence-based best teaching practices or age-appropriate in-play guidance.

Youngsters under 5 process information very differently from older kids. They have shorter attention spans, less working memory capacity and more limitations in visual interpretation and are also still developing the fine motor skills needed for accurate touch-screen interactions.

Half - Apps - Market - Preschoolers - Children

"More than half of the educational apps on the market are for preschoolers, but little is known about how they are designed to help children learn," said Stephanie Reich, study co-author and associate professor of education. "By examining app design, we found that several different teaching tactics were utilized, but many were not optimal for how research says preschoolers learn. For example, without well-structured feedback or leveling of difficulty, children may end up relying on trial and error or playing simple games that drill the same skills with no progression."

As established by existing research, the key elements for teaching preschoolers with apps are: clarity and simplicity of goals; quality of feedback and rewards; structure of challenge; and motion-based interactions. At the start of play, clear prompts should let the children know what the task is and how to complete it. Since preschoolers are just beginning to develop reading skills, visual demonstrations and verbal descriptions of why certain actions yield certain outcomes help young learners. As for rewards, instead of just earning badges or stickers for completing tasks, unlocking skills or advanced levels of the game can make learning more intrinsically motivating – that is, it makes learning the fun part, rather than the sticker.

App - Design

App design can be structured to...
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