The one statement in which we can all agree is that technology, especially mobile, is the great unifier and spans all age groups from the very young to octogenarians. With children there is a tremendous opportunity to engage with them through educational content at very early stages in their development. More broadly, through mobile devices the ability to reach the masses is unlimited.
The rate at which young children are adapting to technology is far outpacing the learning curve of previous generations. Case in point, the numbers for global smartphone ownership grew from 35% in May 2011 to 56% in May 2013. In that time the average age for a first cell phone user dropped to 13! With worldwide shipping of mobile devices estimated to hit 2 billion, that’s a huge market (and age range) of people viewing the world on a mobile device.
75% of children under the age of 8 have access to a mobile device including babies under three. Children understand how to tap on a screen, pull up an app, swipe a screen, and in many cases make a phone call. They intuitively touch a screen and have no concept of a mouse or separate keyboard or how those devices connect to a screen inherently disconnected from them.
The reason touch devices such as tablets and smartphones are so appealing to children is because the tap and swipe gesturing built into those devices are similar to gestures children use in the physical world. This kind of UI is so intuitive that children who are not even potty trained can pick up a tablet or smartphone and instantly be able to control the device.
When you look at all this data and focus in on the educational impact these devices are having, you start to see why device specific educational apps and mobile focused web apps are gaining momentum. This becomes monumental when you consider the number of schools who are making tablet devices available to their student body. These pioneering schools are looking to the development world for powerful educational applications to help enrich the students learning experience.
Let’s not forget about the parents here as well. Schools may be increasing tablet use in the classroom but parents are allowing kids to play and do more on mobile devices than ever before. In fact, even though television still remains as the dominant media in a household, it’s quickly losing ground. The ability to have enriching, digital educational experiences hand picked by the parent, and laid out for the child to select and play, is becoming far more the norm than plopping kids in front of the TV.
But I do agree with the argument that a tablet will never replace the wonders of reading a book or playing with toys. You cannot replace many of the current or past learning tools with all media/digital ones, however there is no reason a touch device cannot sit side by side with them. This is another tool to add to the educational toolbox and one that has such endless educational potential. Really the only limit a digital device has, is the limit of the developer and user’s imagination.