Toddler Training

For a long time the TV has been a child minder for young children and there is some attempt to provide programs  with some educational value. Computers have also moved into this role and would seem to have more potential than the TV as they can be interactive. Touch screens seem to be at natural form of input to 3 and 4-year olds as the finger marks on the screens in the homes of youngsters will attest to.

A paper by Subial et al entitled “The Ghosts in the Computer: etc.” grabbed my attention and became a must read (1). It was, however, focused on a study of young kids chasing pictures around a touch screen monitor in the order that the computer wanted them too. They were rewarded with flashing lights; no candy or toys were handed out as prizes.

If the kids had some verbal training, they did pretty well. But on the other hand if they had to figure out what would gratify the computer without any training, they could be classed as dismal failures.  If a human demonstrated what they had to do, they got it in one.

The conclusion was that kids learn better from an adult than a computer. Good news for teachers as it doesn’t look like replacing them with an iPad is going to be effective. 

Like all good social psychology experiments, the trials had to be followed by surveys of all the participants. There was a strong consensus that the computers weren’t simply inanimate objects but that there was a degree of animacy lurking inside lurking inside.

I know exactly how they feel sometimes when my computer deletes the wrong file or my word processor corrects a word that I’ve just typed into something quite inappropriate without any input from me. Just like the majority of users, I know that training me isn’t the answer. What I need is a good reliable method to exorcise the ghosts in my computer.


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