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iPad apps 'can teach children as effectively as face-to-face instruction'

17/11/2016 Joanna

Interactive media such as iPad apps may be used to teach young children just as effectively as face-to-face instruction, according to a new study.

The report, from the University of British Columbia, has highlighted the potential role that app-based learning can play in teaching and education, indicating that digital tools can go hand-in-hand with more traditional forms of tutelage.

For this study, two groups of 43 children aged four to eight years old played a game on either an iPad or with an adult instructor that involved guessing how many children would know different facts about animals.

When the children were later tested on their knowledge, both groups were shown to have taken in the same amount of information, regardless of whether they had learned using the app or from an adult instructor.

The study - published in the medical journal Frontiers in Psychology - also provides additional texture to the broader debate about the impact of screen time on the development of children, as this has been an area of concern for parents and teachers alike.

Although previous research has found that children are generally unable to learn effectively from more passive forms of media such as TV or videos, there has been little work done to date to analyse the potential benefits of interactive media.

Senior author Susan Birch, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, said: "What this shows is not all screen time is bad. This was one of the first pieces of evidence that interactive media can be beneficial for children."

Currently, around 80 per cent of iPad apps are targeted at children, so this study will offer reassurance that the effect of these apps can be positive in the right circumstances. It also shows how digital tools have the potential to be successfully integrated into modern teaching techniques.

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