"How Much Education is in Educational Preschool Apps?: Analyzing and Experimentally Testing Educational App Designs"
Presenter: Amrit Sidhu, Poster Presentation
Research Title: How Much Education is in Educational Preschool Apps?: Analyzing and Experimentally Testing Educational App Designs
Faculty Advisor: Stephanie Reich
Mentor: Melissa Callaghan
Applications on mobile devices are developing at an unprecedented rate, with an emergence of educational apps targeted towards preschool- aged children. Though popular, it is unclear how these apps are designed, and whether they are designed with children’s learning and development in mind. It is important for apps targeted at this age group to be developmentally appropriate, since a significant amount of learning occurs in these years. Young children’s brains are still developing and apps should fit their capacity and needs. Engagement and academic motivation are important for preschool learning, since many skills, such as attention and emotional regulation, are developing. Research shows that engaging and motivating activities help young children focus better, thus facilitating comprehension and learning. To analyze the design of popular educational preschool apps, specifically to understand the motivational and engagement features commonly and rarely used, we examined 171 apps, identifying the prevalence of features and making between app comparisons. Results show that a majority of apps lacking engagement factors (i.e. meaningful contexts, integrative plots) and motivating rewards (i.e. motivational feedback, high scores). These findings suggest that many teaching and learning practices emphasized in schools, such as repeating or rephrasing instructions when one is unengaged, are not present in educational apps. Future research should experimentally test apps how the use of these impact children’s learning outcomes.