Interactive media is captivating tech-savvy children via apps and video games. Today, 57 percent of children under the age of eight are using educational applications, according to a study from Nielsen’s 2014 Digital Consumer Report. The expansion of interactive media provides a vital opportunity to empower children and to increase their educational skills and knowledge.
Children these days play and engage with learning in a way that is intrinsically bound to their familiarity with technology. This is impacting the way educators teach, as they recognise a new style of teaching is needed to accommodate the ways in which students learn and to access the technology that is available. The adoption of interactive media by parents in particular has driven improvements in early literacy skills for children.
Innovative programs have evolved to allow for holistic education through tablets, computers and game consoles. Speed of access to information, a variety of means of communicating, kinaesthetic features of devices and in-built productivity tools all allow children to unlock their potential.
Interactive media has the capability to excite children by engaging multiple senses through illustration, animation, audio and touch. The intuitive nature of mobile devices encourages children to learn through experience and experimentation. As a result of the changing learning behaviours in children, interactive media has great potential to enhance learning outcomes by providing programs that cater to an individual by allowing them to progress through levels at their own pace.
Because children’s interactive media environment is vast and ever changing, it is important to pay close attention to influential macro-factors, including children’s media usage. Parents now recognise that digital media consumption is of great benefit and importance in their children’s lives. The concerns surrounding children’s use of technology are now disappearing to make way for a new generation of interactive learners.
Educational apps are being used as a method of motivation and engagement in children’s early years. Apps are a systematic way to introduce technology and curriculum to children. Not only do they promote positive experiences and learning outcomes, but they also provide a portable learning tool. Whilst there is no denying there are ‘poor quality’ apps available, there are also excellent apps that can see children excel in literacy and numeracy. If parents are looking for a quality app, they should pay attention to the Apple rating, which carries an age-appropriate guide so users can have confidence in their suitability for young children and their learning abilities.
App-led learning has many advantages over other forms of computer-assisted programs. It is an innovative technology that uses new functions, features and tactile user interfaces. These innovative functions enable a more logical and immediate user experience provided by onscreen manipulation, as opposed to scrolling with a mouse and pointer.
The main motivator of educational technology is to improve a child’s academic performance using a medium (such as an iPad) and a product (app) that are engaging. Tablets are intuitive, easy to use and transport, and fast to initiate. Some apps store huge amounts of information and can track progress so that a child gets instant feedback and parents can monitor and assess their child’s individual learning abilities.
Children are social beings and active learners who relate to real-life situations to build on their existing strengths. Hence, materials need to build knowledge, allow for individual differences, and provide for achievement, success and progression.
Mobile apps engage a child, both actively and passively, by providing a medium of delivery that taps into a natural learning state. It is the degree of engagement, as well as sensory input, that will motivate and engage a child’s preference and response to different learning materials.
Apps that present ideas in manageable modules and offer regulated feedback allow children to systematically approach different learning ideas that are presented in an interesting and accessible way. Progressive modules provide the opportunity for users to develop skills and gain confidence through self-motivated learning.
Since the introduction of the iPad and the shift to mobile apps, the limitations of more traditional computer-based online learning methods have become apparent. This is noticeable in their pricing structures, the dated user interfaces and the constraints of separate a keyboard, mouse and screen. Whilst traditional e-learning methods will continue for some time, the shift to m-learning will continue to accelerate as more quality educational apps are developed.
Activity for children such as online games can provide a positive medium for content delivery and educational outcomes. Online educational games can help children with focus, self-esteem and memory through game functions such as levels, rewards and milestones. These functions act as key development tools in growing a child’s abilities and affirming learnt skills as he or she progresses.
An advantage of online gaming is that users are able to work on, and engage with, a number of skill sets at the one time. Through using online games as a learning tool, students are better able to grasp the fundamentals of literacy and numeracy, whilst also developing their research, problem-solving and leadership skills.
In addition to any academic benefits, online gaming also provides an opportunity for students to overcome challenges and work as a team to solve complex problems. Collaborative digital games encourage students to work together and further develop problem-solving skills. As many online digital games offer various directions of engagement throughout, students must think creatively and share perspectives to form a solution.
Though video games are often linked to various behavioural issues in children, there are components of gaming that can improve learning and serve as effective teaching aids. Well-designed video games can provide a strong framework for inquiry and project-based learning. Much like their app and online-based counterparts, video games use imagery and movement as a focal engagement point for users. As a complement to traditional methods of education, video games have developed so that users are motivated to enjoy learning.
If structured correctly, games can offer a number of learning opportunities to users. Whilst games can tackle simple processes like breaking down complex tasks, they also assist in more sophisticated ideas such as hypotheses and experimentation. Because many games offer continuous feedback and the ability to individually control the pace of learning, users are able to create personalised learning experiences that both challenge and directly connect with their learning level.
Combined with their popularity as a consumer item, video games are becoming an increasingly popular choice of interactive media for parents and children alike.
Nevertheless, there is always room for growth and further development in the tech industry. With the expansion of many interactive learning platforms, there are sure to be further advancements that will lead to the digital transformation of the traditional classroom.
Interactive media is changing the ways children learn and educators and parents share responsibility for harnessing these developments to provide a more fulfilling and comprehensive vision for children’s education.
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