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The Power of the iPad – How Steve Jobs Changed the Way Kids Learn

Speech-Language Pathologist Highlights Seven Important Techniques to Consider When Using the iPad with Young Children


San Jose, California (October 11, 2011) – There’s no doubt that Steve Jobs has left a significant legacy on the tech industry. His many gadgets, like the iPad, have become beneficial tools in educating kids. Yet many parents and professionals are not maximizing the benefit of this technology by not focusing on the technique of how devices like the iPad can be used when interacting with young children.
“It’s not just about how to use the iPad as a teaching tool, but focusing on the technique that is used with the technology,” shares Lisa Luna DeCurtis, a bilingual speech-language pathologist and blogger for “As I continue to integrate the iPad’s apps in my private practice, as well as in my home with my 3-year-old, I’ve seen how this intuitive tool maps how young children already think, act, and learn. Yet, it’s important to focus on the technique so this tool can be used in the most meaningful way.”
DeCurtis shares seven techniques and points to consider in order to get the most from your child’s technological experience with the iPad or other teaching devices.

1. The plan. It’s important to first ask yourself why you are using a tablet computer’s applications, versus reading actual books, building with blocks, or coloring on paper. Is it to associate and extend an activity that the child already knows while introducing new technological concepts? Or is it acting as a babysitter or form of entertainment? Feel confident about your plan before handing over an iPad to a child.

2. The participants. Who is using the iPad? Is it for one individual or a group of children simultaneously? What are their ages? What are their current developmental levels regarding their attention span? What are their special needs? If there are apps that are inappropriate for that child’s developmental level, it’s important to have those apps hidden and inaccessible.

3. The parameters. How long do you plan to let the child spend on the iPad? Are there certain settings when it’s not appropriate to use it? Consider the American Pediatrics Association’s Recommendations that children under the age of 5 should engage in no more than 1-2 hours of combined screen-time daily, including time watching TV, DVDs, and all computer time.

4. The purpose. What is the advertised purpose for the app you are using with a child? Is it truly for educational teaching of a new skill or building on previously learned material? Or is just for entertainment? Children will learn something when they’re interacting with the apps, so it’s important to know what you want the child to intentionally learn.

5. The positioning. While a child is using the iPad, are you considering the benefits of sitting next to them or in front of them so you’re face-to-face? Are there times it is beneficial to hold the iPad up near your face or down by your lap? Do you alternate between table time, couch time, and floor time to take advantage of the versatility? Do you want to maintain control of the iPad to lead the interaction or hand it over to the child to allow him/her to explore it on his/her own? Although the positioning will change based on the child’s needs and purpose, it’s beneficial to do some research to see which position will yield the best outcome.

6. The proof. There is no current research-based evidence on the effects of using the iPad’s apps with children of all ages. Although young children appear to benefit from various apps, and there is an extensive amount of anecdotal evidence throughout the web (mostly by bloggers) about its usefulness, it’s important to proceed with caution and use good judgment rather than assuming this tool is educationally beneficial.

7. The potential. Between the media’s attention on children with special needs benefiting from the iPad and the explosion of worldwide developers and programmers infiltrating Apple’s iTunes store on a daily basis with new apps for children, the iPad has become a “game changer” in the field of education.
DeCurtis believes it is still essential for parents and child therapists to focus on developmentally appropriate activities and tried-and-true techniques, rather than depending solely on iPads or other technological devices. “It’s important to seek out sound advice from educators rather than getting caught up in the frenetic pace of this new app-obsessed culture and forgetting what research has shown about how children learn,” adds DeCurtis.

Overall, it’s important to consider your “plan” before handing over any form of technology to children and to think through its role in providing an interactive teaching opportunity or its role as a babysitter or entertainer.

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