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Applying a Developmental Lens to Educational Game Designs for Preschoolers

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Applying a Developmental Lens to Educational Game Designs for Preschoolers

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Abstract

Preschool-aged learners process information differently from older individuals, making it critical to design digital educational games that are tailored to capitalize on young children's learning capabilities. This in-depth literature synthesis connects features of digital educational game design - including visuals, feedback, scaffolding challenge, rewards, and physical interactions to how young children learn. Preschoolers' interests and abilities (e.g., limited attention-span, early reading skills, etc.) are different than older users. As such, developmental science should be used to guide the design of educational games from aesthetic decisions that capture preschoolers' initial interest (e.g., meaningful characters) to carefully select end-of-game rewards (e.g., leveling up). This article connects learning and developmental science research to the design of digital educational games, offering insights into how best to design games for young users and how to select developmentally appropriate games for children.

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... Some games offer the opportunity to get different rewards once a level is unlocked. Receiving rewards for unlocking levels may be a good way to make the game more enjoyable and encourage children to keep exploring the game (Callaghan & Reich, 2020). Indeed, some research has found that children play digital games with rewards longer than they play games without rewards (Ronimus et al., 2014). ...
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... Only one recent study, that we are aware of, has examined ToM in relation to interactive gameplay in preschoolers, not as a dependent variable, but rather as a moderator between gameplay and prosocial behaviors (Shoshani et al., 2022). Although many educational apps marketed for preschoolers do not use optimal pedagogical approaches and are not rooted in developmental science (Callaghan and Reich, 2018;Meyer et al., 2021;Nikolayev et al., 2021), a growing body of literature demonstrates that digital apps that employ developmentally appropriate content and design elements have the potential to teach preschool children (ages 3-5) a wide variety of skills (Hirsh-Pasek et al., 2015;Herodotou, 2018;Flynn et al., 2019;Griffith et al., 2020;Kim et al., 2021;Papadakis, 2021b;Callaghan and Reich, 2022) including language (Teepe et al., 2017;Neumann, 2018;Dore et al., 2019;Kirsch, 2021), computational thinking (Papadakis, 2022), and executive function skills (Huber et al., 2018). ...
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The development of self-regulatory systems during the preschool years is accompanied by a dramatic increase in the ability to inhibit actions based on the directions of others. Several tasks have shown evidence of changes in self-regulation during the fourth year of life. The current cross-sectional study used a Simple Simon task, in which 33 3- to 4-year-old children were asked to respond to the command of one large toy animal but not to the command of another. Three important aspects of self-regulation were examined: the ability to inhibit action in the face of conflict, error detection/correction and the use of verbal and physical control strategies. The ability to inhibit a response in this task increased from 22% to 90% between 36 and 48 months of age. Post error slowing of Reaction Time (RT) indicative of error detection emerged at about the same age as successful inhibition. Physical rather than verbal self-regulation strategies were spontaneously employed by children to aid in the process of inhibition.
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Research on young children’s mathematics learning with technology is in many ways in its infancy. Given that in western societies young children are increasingly engaging with technologies in their learning and play further research examining the affordances of these tools for mathematics learning is needed. This chapter examines the role of interactive technologies in early mathematics learning with three- to eight-year-olds. Exemplars are presented to highlight how the pedagogic design of technologies affords early mathematics learning. Data are drawn from the two authors’ early research, doctoral theses and current research projects. Given that today’s children are frequently immersed in these technological tools, this work outlines a pedagogic framework that may assist educators in making informed decisions regarding technology.
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We describe a freely available iPad app for preschoolers aimed at helping children develop robust early number concepts for the numbers 1-10. We will present results of an in-progress study, involving pre-post learning measures, in-game learning measures, and video data, aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of the app and of comparing three models of feedback. We created three versions of the app, each of which employs a different kind of feedback when the learner solves a problem incorrectly. In the Implication Feedback condition (IF), the learner sees that their incorrect answer resulted in too many or too few, and they add more or take some away to fix it. In the Corrective Feedback condition (CF) the learner is shown the correct answer after a mistake and why it is correct, and they imitate the correct answer. In the Answer until Correct condition (AUC), learners are given an indication that they have made a mistake, and they continue trying until they answer correctly.
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Computer games can be considered complex learning environments in which players require instructional support to engage in cognitive processes such as selecting and actively organizing/integrating new information. We used meta-analytical techniques to test if instructional support enhances learning in game-based learning (k = 107, Nadj = 3675). We found that instructional support in game-based learning environments improved learning (d = .34, p < .001). Additional moderator analyses revealed that the learning effect was largest when learning of skills was involved (d = .62, p < .001) and when the instructional support aimed at the selection of relevant new information (d = .46, p < .001). Furthermore, we found some evidence for a publication bias since the effect sizes for studies in peer-reviewed journals was significantly higher than for studies in proceedings and unpublished studies (journals: d = .44; proceedings: d = .08; unpublished: d = .14).
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We produced case studies of fourteen families based on nine rounds of data collection during the period from June 2008 to October 2009. We focused on fourteen children who were three years old when our visits started and used an ecocultural approach to examine their experiences of learning and playing with technologies at home. The study describes i) which technologies children encounter at home, ii) how family practices influence children’s encounters with technology, and iii) what children are learning through their interactions with technology. We present a framework of four areas of learning that could be supported by technology: acquiring operational skills, extending knowledge and understanding of the world, developing dispositions to learn, and understanding the role of technology in everyday life.
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The finding that extrinsic rewards can undermine intrinsic motivation has been highly controversial since it first appeared (Deci, 1971). A meta-analysis published in this journal (Cameron & Pierce, 1994) concluded that the undermining effect was minimal and largely inconsequential for educational policy. However, a more recent meta-analysis (Deci, Koestner, & Ryan, 1999) showed that the Cameron and Pierce meta-analysis was seriously flawed and that its conclusions were incorrect. This article briefly reviews the results of the more recent meta-analysis, which showed that tangible rewards do indeed have a substantial undermining effect. The meta-analysis provided strong support for cognitive evaluation theory (Deci & Ryan, 1980), which Cameron and Pierce had advocated abandoning. The results are briefly discussed in terms of their relevance for educational practice.
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Motivation, one of the foremost problems in education, is often inadequately addressed in typical foundational (educational psychology) courses. In this article, Ames clarifies the complex construct of motivation as it relates to learning and offers a revamped curriculum that applies motivation theory and research to practice. She recommends instruction in how motivation constructs relate to each other, to developmental changes, to individual and culturally related differences, and to the classroom context.
Children's and adolescents' cognitive, affective, and behavioral states of engagement enhance or impede enjoyment of, and performance with, educational games. We propose a comprehensive model of engagement states and apply it to research on educational game development and research on the role of various aspects of engagement on game play and learning. Emphasis is placed on individual differences in attention, memory, motor speed and control, persistence, and positive and negative affect (approach/avoidance), and how these pertain to social cognitions regarding mathematics achievement. Our challenge is to develop educational games that are effective for a wide variety of student engagement states. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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With the spread of mobile games targeting preschoolers there is an increased need for the creation of high-quality, research-based content for this age group. But how can "quality" be defined here? To answer this question, an extensive review of literature and available rating systems was needed which resulted in a detailed set of attributes which constitute a fun, usable, beneficial and, above all, successful mobile learning game targeting preschoolers. The resulting framework (Pre-MEGa) is presented in this paper with the aim of facilitating the process of translating research into concrete, measurable characteristics for designing and evaluating this type of software.
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Observes that classroom learning requires students to be adaptive by coping with and modifying stressful situations. The development of adaptive learning enables students to respond flexibly to tasks and to transform and initiate them, and thereby assume control over their learning. It is suggested that educators' conceptions of success and failure in student learning interfere with the enhancement of adaptive learning, as do tasks that are too prescriptive. An alternative conception of classroom learning is presented that emphasizes the constructive qualities of functional failure and the limited benefits of uninformative success. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)