A Tablet Computer for Young Children? Exploring Its Viability for Early Childhood Education

Fall, 2010

Source: Journal of Research on Technology in Education. Vol. 43, Iss. 1. p. 75-99. ( Fall, 2010). (Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The current study explored the viability of tablet computers in early education.
The authors first investigated the ease with which preschool children become acclimated to the tablet technology. Next, the authors examined this technology' effectiveness in keeping children engaged and motivated to draw as a means to implementing curriculum standards.
The purpose of the study was to answer two research questions:
1.. Is stylus-interfaced technology a viable tool for early education?
2. How can stylus-interfaced technology align with technology curriculum standards for early education?

The participants were forty-one children between 3 and 6 years who enrolled in three classrooms at northeastern United States.
The researchers invited children in pairs to a quiet room outside the classroom equipped with child-sized tables and chairs to use the tablet computer with them. This was a familiar space, as children frequently use it with their teachers for small-group work. The tablet computers were equipped with Microsoft Word software, and the number of icons on the menu bar were limited and enlarged for ease of selection by the children. The clocking of each session began when the child picked up the stylus and ended when the child put it down to indicate that s/he was finished. Each child received a hard copy of his or her drawing at the end of each session. The children were videotaped while they used the tablets.


The findings revealed that the children were able to become comfortable using the tablet for drawing when given some adult instruction and peer modeling for a total exposure of one hour or less.
All but one child was able to use the tablet to create a self-portrait by the second session.
The quality of the drawing and writing that children were able to attain was comparable with traditional media.
Finally, the use of computers in the home did not influence the ease with which children became acclimated to this new technology.
Furthermore, as children developed ease with the tablet, their independence with the technology increased, resulting in more experimentation, an increase in technical incidents, and increased ability to use it to create/represent their thinking.

In addition, the majority of the children indicated a preference for the tablet computer over traditional drawing media. Given the ease with which the children in this study were able to acclimate to using this new technology, along with the high level of interest and engagement they demonstrated, the tablet computer appears to be a potential learning tool for young children.
Finally, what seemed to matter in regard to technology and learning are the ways that teachers choose to use the technology (Evans et al., 2008). When teachers provide social facilitation for children using computers in the form of scaffolding (Schmid et al., 2008) and scripting the environment, positive peer interaction significantly increases (Lau, Higgins, Geifer, Hong, & Miller, 2005).


The tablet computer appears to be a viable tool for use with preschool children. It provides early-childhood teachers with another tool for implementing technology standards and curriculum to prepare children to be digital citizens who are technologically literate. As the expectations of formal education and the capability of technology evolve, a careful examination of their interface for very young children is needed.

Evans Schmidt, M., & Vandewater, E. A. (2008). Media and attention, cognition, and school achievement. The Future of Children: Children and Computer Technology 18(1), 63-85.
Lau, C, Higgins, K., Geifer, J., Hong, E., 8c Miller, S. (2005). The effects of teacher facilitation on the social interactions of young children during computer activities. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 25(4), 208-217.
Schmid, R. F., Miodrag, N., & DiFrancesco, N. (2008). A human-computer partnership: The tutor/child/computer triangle promoting the acquisition of early literacy skills. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 41(1), 63-84.

Updated: Mar. 22, 2011