I’m Just Playing iPad”: Comparing Prekindergarteners’ and Preservice Teachers’ Social Interactions While Using Tablets for Learning

October 2015

Source: Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, Volume 36, No. 4, p. 362–378, 2015
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article focuses on how children and preservice teachers responded to using technology in their learning processes and how the choice and use of certain kinds of apps prompted social engagement across both settings.

The authors describe two studies, which are situated within social constructivist frameworks that emphasize discovery-based learning, and elements of user-directed, open-ended, playful exploration and experimentation with tools and concepts.
The first study took place in a teacher education program at a major public university in Texas, where students were asked to incorporate discovery-based learning apps into their project-based-learning lesson plans. The second study took place in a prekindergarten classroom. This prekindergarten enabled the children freely access and use a specific list of drawing, building, creating, or dramatic play related apps.

The findings reveal that students, young and old alike, explored iPad apps socially. The authors found that participants' talk and actions evidenced their curiosities, wonderings, noticings, emotions, and their persistence in developing understanding and meaning.
The authors found that once a suitable program was discovered, learners could engage the tools of interest and get touch-respondent feedback as to the effectiveness of their actions. The participants could also get feedback from others, and often did so through talk and gaining others’ attention.

The authors also found that the environment was an important component of explorers’ experiences in both cases. For the prekindergarten students, the experimentation activity was organized in a classroom where the teacher believed in and provided time, space, and materials for children’s play-based and inquiry-based learning opportunities.

The second author organized a similar type of open-ended exploration of discovery-based iPad applications for the adult students. This exploration enabled the learners to examine the applications for possible use with young children. In both spaces, players’ spontaneous verbalizations, changing actions, and emotional responses had time and space to emerge as individuals followed their individual and social interests.

The authors conclude that they selected apps in their studies and encouraged preservice teachers to select apps that would align with social constructivist and sociocultural perspectives. Using these lenses, the authors advocate for apps designed to allow for open-ended, discovery-based learning through playful exploration and experimentation.
Through their work with young children and those studying to be their teachers, the authors found players of all ages socially engaging in active, hands-on, creative, and authentic activities.
The authors suggest that tablet-based apps with these features may allow learners both young and old to socially interact in discovery-based learning through play.

Updated: Apr. 22, 2018