Understanding the Educational Potential of Touchscreen Apps Targeting 2-5 Year Old Children

Children and Screens

This study evaluated the teaching potential of free and paid apps for children ages 2-5, and the role of app design in children’s learning, and employed a new quantitative and qualitative coding scheme for that purpose. This process began with the top ten free and paid apps for this age group from each of the Apple, Google, and Amazon app stores (47 apps, excluding duplicates). Thirty of these have been coded to date, based on screen recordings of app use. They were characterized initially as having either an educational or game focus, and then evaluated qualitatively in 11 domains of teaching potential, and for such other attributes as cognitive and stimulus-reaction interactivity, frequency of static and animated object properties, and mean number of screen elements on a page. Educational apps had a higher proportion of cognitive (as opposed to stimulus-reaction), interactions, and fewer available distracting interactions on a page, than games did. These preliminary findings show that educational apps differed from games in their teaching potential, provided more opportunities for active cognition, and had fewer available distracting interactions. The next step in this research is to study the role that age-related changes in learning play in determining educational potential of various app features.