Exploration of pre-school children’s ‘touch’ using iPads

Author: Sara Price

Working with Lucrezia Crescenzi from The Interactive Media Lab, Barcelona (http://www.lmi.ub.es/lmi/index.php), we have recently completed an empirical research study exploring pre-school children’s interaction with iPads, and examining differences in interaction with a finger painting activity using iPad technology versus traditional physical paint and paper. We have been analysing the data and have submitted a paper for publication in a special issue journal on Touch and Technology.ipad_fingerpainting

ipad_fingerpainting2 The paper compared children’s finger painting activity in a paint-paper with an iPad environment by analysing children’s touch interaction as a whole, as well as an examination of the different types and quality of touch used to explore the variations, differences and similarities in their use of touch. The findings suggest that, while the ipad environment does not engender different kinds of touch movements, it does re-shape the activity and change the character of the painting process in both quantitative and qualitative ways. In particular, the iPad engendered broader use of a wider range of types of touch, including more complex and longer sequences of continuous touch interactions, but it restricted the use of multiple digits and hands, fostering far more index finger interaction, and precluded the range of sensory experiences enabled through physical paints. We discuss these findings in terms of the implications for play and learning and children’s mark making development, as well as methodological implications for multimodal research approaches, including the development of analytical processes for examining touch-based interaction. The paper also raises a number of areas for future research, including whether or not there are significant qualitative differences in the drawing outcomes in each environment and the implications of this for children’s development in terms of early writing, multimodal literacy and digital skills

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