Gestural Interfaces and 2-Year-Olds

In the video above, a dad asks his son to draw something on a new iPad, the ubiquitous Apple tablet.  The 2-year-old clearly has some facility with the device as he casually switches between apps and between tools within the drawing app.  Interestingly, (though not surprisingly for anyone with a 2-year-old,) the boy also wants to use his favorite apps including playing some pre-reading games and watching videos.  He very naturally fast-forwards through the video to his favorite part.  He also knows to change the orientation of the device to properly orient the app to a wider landscape format.

Although I like gadgets, I’m not a true early adopter.  I do carry a PDA — an iPod touch — which my 2- and 4-year-olds enjoy playing with.  It’s amazing how quickly they understand gestural interfaces, pinching, pulling and tapping their way from app to app.

While I don’t think that I need to rush right out and get my kids iPads so they don’t get left behind, (the whole point is that they’re easy to use anyway,) I do wonder about some of the interesting opportunities for learning on these devices: drawing, reading, and linking information.  Of course, they also do a lot of these things on paper which places far fewer limits on their creativity — instead of choosing from 16 colors in a paint program, they can choose from 128 crayon colors or create their own by mixing their paints.

In the end, this new technology is flashy and fun, but I’m not convinced that iPads and other tablets are essential tools that will give our kids and our students a clear learning advantage.  I sure would like one, though.

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2 Comments

Filed under Inspiration

2 responses to “Gestural Interfaces and 2-Year-Olds

  1. Agreed – they’re not essential – the same way an overhead projector is not essential in class. There are many ways to teach and learn, and the iOS offers just one more tool. If it motivates a kid who otherwise isn’t motivated, or provides a way for kids to practice a skill yet again without feeling that they’re doing one more boring worksheet (even if that’s effectively what they’re doing!) then it’s a useful tool. There are ‘drill and kill’ apps and flashcard apps, and then there are apps that allow kids to be creative. I’ve been enjoying StoryKit for my ESL kids – they get to write and share their stories online and also have to read aloud, so they get to work on pronunciation too. They get really excited about sharing their writing – going back to their mainstream classroom and asking the teacher to show the whole class their work, and going home and showing their parents their webpage. It’s free – try it out on your iPod and see what you think!

    • Thanks for your comment, Susan. There are a lot of lousy “educational” apps (and other software). In my experience, just about every piece of software has to limit creativity in some parameters if only because an infinite number of options is not possible, or extremely difficult from an interface design perspective. So, I’m always looking for good apps. StoryKit sounds interesting. I look forward to giving it a try.

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