iPads in early years, separating assumptions and evidence

Kucirkova, Natalia (2014). iPads in early years, separating assumptions and evidence. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, article no. 715.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00715

URL: http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fps...

Abstract

Since their first appearance in 2010, iPads and other comparable tablets have been heralded for their potential to revolutionize education, including that of young children. Like previous multimedia technologies (e.g., whiteboards, Kozma, 1991), iPads are multimodal, allowing users to use texts, pictures, and sounds. In comparison with other, so far available multimedia technologies, iPads have three novel features which have the potential to make a positive difference to early education: iPads are portable and light-weight (unlike netbooks and laptops), they eliminate the need for separate input devices requiring certain levels of dexterity (such as mouse and keyboard) and thirdly, they are specifically designed to accommodate a number of apps, many of which have a child-friendly intuitive design. With several of these apps, iPads provide unprecedented opportunities for children to create their own contents and participate in rich and dynamic learning contexts.

Yet, despite the possible benefits, there is an absence of research supporting the enthusiastic claims that iPads will “revolutionize education” (e.g., Ferenstein, 2011). This is due to several reasons but in early education, two prevalent myths concerning new technologies hinder research progress and innovation in practice: technological determinism and the digital/non-digital binary. This article outlines how these technology myths relate to the emerging iPad research in early education of children aged between 2 and 8 years old. After a critical assessment of the assumptions underlying some of the studies, attention is turned to a “second wave” of iPads' research which avoids these conceptual obstacles. Recommendations for future research are provided throughout the article, with the aim of provoking a wider debate regarding some of the identified issues.

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