Young Children and Technology—portfolio

At CCT, we spend a lot of time thinking about technology and how we can help teachers and parents figure out ways to use it to support young children's learning. One of the things we often stress in our work is that technology can never replace human interaction or good teaching. Children, especially young children, need caring and knowledgable adults to help them navigate and learn about the world, and this includes the world of technology. Much of our work emphasizes the role that adults play in mediating children’s use of computer games or videos. This includes doing things like helping children play games in pairs so that they can talk about what they are doing and negotiate gameplay (rather than playing in isolation), or encouraging teachers and parents to pause videos to ask children questions about what is going on or what might happen next. We try to reflect this approach to technology in our research, and also in the guidance we provide to educators.

Over the years, we've collaborated with many partners, federal agencies, and private philanthropies who are committed to young children's healthy development, including PBS, Sesame Workshop, WGBH, Apple, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. By joining together, we've built an extensive body of work in the area of early learning, whether literacy, math, or science. More information on this work can be found in the white paper, Early Childhood @EDC: Young Learners and Technology. Some of our recent research projects include the following.

Tools to Support Preschool Teachers—This project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has developed tools to meet the needs of early childhood educators who wish to incorporate developmentally appropriate technology in their classrooms, and who may have students who are emergent bilinguals or dual-language learners. The toolkits include information about research-based best practices as well as checklists of strategies. All the documents are available in three languages—English, Spanish, and Chinese—and are free online.

Ready To Learn—Since 2006, we have worked with SRI International to conduct research and evaluation studies to measure children's learning outcomes under the Ready To Learn Initiative. This initiative, supported by the U.S. Congress, has allowd the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS to develop media-rich literacy and math learning resources for young children, with the goal of improving school readiness among preschoolers in high-need communities.

Next Generation Preschool Math—This NSF-funded collaboration among researchers, media developers, and teachers aims to develop classroom activities and tablet-based games to help preschool children, particularly low-income students, learn sophisticated math concepts. The project is based on research that shows that (i) early mathematics learning is one of the most important predictors of later school success; (ii) very young children are capable of learning sophisticated mathematics; (iii) most presechool children are exposed to only simplistic math, such as counting; and (iv) technology can be used to help young children learn math. For more information, see "Early Math with Gracie & Friends™".

Next Generation Preschool Science—This research and development project, funding by a National Science Foundation DRK-12 grant, is working to develop, iteratively refine, and evaluatio an innovative program for disadavantaged preschoolers to promote their learning of key science practices and concepts.

Bringing Science Home with Peep—Working with media specialists and home visiting organizations, we are developing and testing a Family Engagement Toolkit that features digital and hands-on science learning resources to support families—especially those in high-need communities—in incorporating early science learning into their home life, fostering their children's school readiness.

• AHA! Island—In partnership with WGBH, we are working directly with familes, as well as with educators who teach in under-served urban and rural preschools, to identify the building blocks of computational thinking, an important precursor to computer science. This project encourages children and caregivers to experiment with hands-on activities and digital tablet apps, and will soon have a complementary broadcast series on PBS.

Finding Our Way Around—This research collaboration, funded by the Heising-Simon Foundation, aims to create a suite of tablet-based games and activities to promote preschool children's understanding of spatial concepts and reasoning, ultimately preparing them for success in kindergarten and beyond. Through digitally enhanced and hands-on caregiver and child co-engagement activities, this project supports caregivers in their ability to mathematize events in daily life. 

Plum Rx—In this NSF-funded AISL project, we are engaging with WGBH and three urban outdoor prescription programs to develop mobile-accessible digital media resources to bring active environmental science learning to the hard-to-reach audience of urban families.