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Jun 17 2015 - 08:00 PM
How Technology Changes Young Learners

What can recent research tell us about the influence of digital technologies on the development of young people and the ways they learn? A 2014 review in Educational Technology & Society analyzes content in 94 studies from 87 articles exploring one or more correlations between technology usage and the growth of children eight and younger.

According to reviewers, the state of current research reflects findings that appear to be overwhelmingly positive for children on their cognitive, social, emotional, and physical registers alike, despite often-raised concerns to the contrary. Perhaps most notable are the measurably positive (or non-negative) influences of communication technologies, multimedia, and digital devices on characteristics like child interactivity, collaborative spirit, and general attitudes toward multiculturalism.

What current research does not reflect, however, is a more appropriate, non-binary discussion of the complex intersections between technology and early learning. These reviewers emphasize the conditionality of the specific influence that recent research typically fails to consider. Indeed the reviewers ultimately respond to this limitation and establish an appropriate typology intended to spark the kinds of research questions that, moving forward, can be more attuned to the real, complicated, often mediated relationships between young people and the digital world.

What are some of the factors we should consider in a real measurement of technology’s impact on our kids? The variables are wide-ranging. For children they include age and gender, home access to technology, frequency and type of technology usage, the shapes of digital experience, or general attitudes toward innovation. Future studies must also consider adult roles in this context, including how they mediate a child’s technology experience, share with a child their own perception of technology’s benefits or pitfalls, or to what degree they practice teaching alongside their digital tools.

These suggestions underpin the reviewers’ general point: approaches to measuring child development through unique, individual experiences of a rapidly changing technological landscape require a certain adaptability that by nature resists categorical assessment.

Hsin, C., Li, M., & Tsai, C. (2014). The influence of young children's use of technology on their learning: A review. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 17(4), 85-99.

Image: generation by via Flickr

|By: Jacob Albert|736 Reads