Growing Up Digitally: The iPad As a Learning Device

By  |  Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 1:36 pm

His name is Bridger Wilson, and he’s two years old. He’s just like any other toddler, full of imagination. But Bridger’s father Mike has bought him an iPad. It’s not immediately clear how much experience that Bridger has had with the device previous to the taking of this video (which we should mention is about 8 months old now), but the results are seemingly rather stunning.

He appears to have the basic methods of navigating the device down, which is somewhat amazing since he likely cannot read and is just learning to speak. But Bridger’s father Mike says in the comments that “his speech, understanding, word recognition, and even hand eye coordination have improved within just a short while.” Quite an an accomplishment for a gadget from Cupertino, no?

See for yourself:

The above video is not the only one on YouTube. Here’s another showing a 2 1/2 year old on an iPad (questionable if it’s her first time as claimed), seemingly having no trouble getting around:

And yet another:

So in our ever-digital society, may the iPad be an important tool in education? I think so. At this age children are very impressionable, and have a sponge-like ability to soak up new . Developers understand this and the potential marketability of the device to parents, and there seemingly is an ever increasing number of educational apps in the App Store for both the iPhone as well as the iPad.

These devices can assist the child at learning at his or her own pace, and possibly in his or her own individual way. Is this better? I’d leave the answer to that question to the education professionals — I’m just a journalist.

There are definitely some downsides to this digitized method of learning. Growing up in front of a computer limits interpersonal communication and inhibits development in how we deal with each other. It also replaces the parent as the teacher. We shouldn’t leave the experience of raising our children to somebody else.

I’m interested in hearing the opinions of Technologizer readers when it comes to technology and its role in education (not just limited to the iPad example I’ve given here). Is it good for kids to be exposed to these screens early? Or do you think technology is playing too big a role in their development? Sound off in the comments.


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15 Comments For This Post

  1. Jonathan Says:

    I have a 9 month old… he's already enchanted by an iPad. Granted, it's really only "games" like UZU and Atomic Toy, but he clearly understands the reaction between his hand, how he uses his hand, and whether he uses a finger, a hand, or 2 hands. He also loves looking at our pictures on the iPad (particularly of Mommy), and has gotten pretty good at swiping to see more.

    As a learning tool, it can certainly be appropriate. Just like a computer… I think the same will hold true as it has in that situation–moderation is key. He'll need to be exposed to more than 1 way of learning. Whether an iPad, a computer, a book, experience, or sitting and talking with someone, learning can be done in so many various ways, we just need to expose our kids to as many as we can.

  2. @mikellewellyn Says:

    @GrumpusNation lol, with you on all of that 🙂

    I just wrote several paragraphs, then hit login with Twitter and it kept only my first line here and deleted the rest. Sigh.

  3. Esteban Says:

    Bridger? If his Dad's so hip, maybe he could have spent more time on baby name websites.

  4. choirguy Says:

    iPads absolutely have a role in education, and there is no reason that an iPad cannot have a role in the development of younger children, too.

    By the time our son was one, he was already getting hold of our iPhones (easier to do than you would think) and turning them on and pressing app buttons. Thankfully, no accidental calls to Beijing, China.

    By the time he was two, we purchased him his own iPod. Many parents want to grill us on that, but we'll parent the way we want to parent. We consider the iPod (3rd generation 8GB) iPhone insurance, as he was constantly wanting to use our iPhones, and a $197 iPhone is far less expensive than trying to replace a $699 iPhone (replacement cost). That device has more than paid for itself over the year, acting as a video player on car trips, and offering lots of (low cost) developmental games for him to play. His favorite apps would be Train Conductor 2 and Build a Train, and his favorite movie–loaded on the device–is Cars. We also can stream movies from his iPod to the Apple TV in our home using Air Play.

    As we own iPads, he doesn't get access to them very often. But there are plenty of developmental apps, such as tracing letters and so on, that would be highly valuable for him in the future. But as the iPad is a device that starts at $499, we're naturally less inclined to let him use the iPad, and we usually encourage him to play with his iPod Touch, which he does. One exception for us are interactive books, like "There's a Monster at the End of this Book," (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) where there is a great story, fun sounds, tasks to achieve, and words are highlighted as the book interacts with the child. I wish I had that version of the book when I was growing up.

    For the record, he's an active, energy filled little boy who loves running, jumping, singing, talking, playing with friends, and going outside. He loves riding his new bike. But when we're in the car, or when he's mellowing out inside, he'll often have his iPod Touch. And that's okay.

  5. Wout Mertens Says:

    Our 15-month old loves the ipad and iphones of our household. She can unlock the devices herself for a month now (very cute to watch, her very carefully tracing her finger over the lock button) and loves to start apps and quit them. She has probably deleted an app or two and almost sent an email – I wish there was more of a possibility to lock down iOS 🙂

    She loves playing piano on iPad, and in the past week she's been selecting the memory card game and playing it some, always reacting happily when she finds matched cards.

    We don't let her play with the devices a whole lot – maybe 30min/day tops? It sure beats television IMHO.

  6. Solo Says:

    These kids today, why in my day, you had a green screen with no mouse and YOU LIKED IT!

  7. golikehellmach Says:

    Yes, iPads (and touchscreen devices in general) have a role in learning and education. However, until authoring and development tools catch up with touchscreen platforms, I wouldn't expect a lot of forward movement.

    I work in the L&D field, and many of us would love to start developing for touchscreens. But Apple's strong objection to Flash means that 100% of our interactive content is totally useless. Until Adobe makes an easy way to publish interactive, SCORM-compliant content to Apple devices (unlikely), or Apple relents on Flash (even more unlikely), you won't see a huge wave of interactive, learning content coming to the iPad. Android, BlackBerry Playbook (if RIM ever gets it together) and the TouchPad are more likely–but even then, content authoring tools for e-learning haven't really seemed to get with it, yet.

  8. jendav_online Says:

    My 2.5 year old daughter has been using our iPad and iPods for about six months and loves them. I continue to be impressed with how intuitive the UI is. Aside from all the developmental apps and the benefits of such, she also enjoys taking pictures/videos.

    There is a way to ensure apps won’t be deleted. Touch the Settings Icon, General, Restrictions. You can toggle Installing Apps, Deleting Apps, In-App Purchases, Rating levels for Movies/TV Shows/Apps/Music, and restrict certain applications.

    With this functionality there are two things to keep in mind.
    1. Even with Deleting Apps disabled, it’s still possible to delete content of apps such as photos, videos, contacts. As such I tend to remove any new photos/videos before handing my iPod over and prefer apps that have password functionality.

    2. If you select rating levels some of your apps may ‘disappear’ as the apps affected are hidden rather than locked. To see them again just go back to the restrictions and enable them.

  9. Darren Murtha Says:

    That video of Bridger Wilson is so cute you really should watch it to hear him say "Okay!"

    That video is exactly why I got into App development! Bridger seems very happy! …that's our Drawing Pad app in the video!

    If you are a preschooler reading this post, don't visit our website about our new iOS app that features innuendos and suggestive content!

    Darren Murtha

  10. Rudy Green Says:

    I also have a 2.5 year-old who can everything the little Bridger boy can do. In fact, these movements and gestures are quite simple for any 2 year-old as it is strictly memorizing a bunch of movements. I imagine 9 out or 10 kids that age can do the same thing.

    What is more interesting to look at is whether there is learning going on? I watch the kid pull up the Drawing Pad, which we also have, and take note at what he is doing with it. This is where it is interesting to look for signs of real learning, imagination, and creativity. While Bridger is a cute kid, I don't think he's going to be another DaVinci.

    The other sad part of the video is him pulling up the Videos app to watch a video. This is something many of us parents disagree with as it is merely a tool to keep the kid mindlessly occupied, typically to give mom or dad a little free time without worrying about watching little junior.

  11. @leighh Says:

    omg pple who disagree with giving mom or dad a little free time are so ridiculous. I have a 15 yr old who watched TV as a small child to giver her mama a break and has grown to be a 90% average student, active in mind body and spirit, completely responsible and more conservative than her mother (that would be me). As a matter of fact the only punishment i could give her that matters is to take her books or art away.

    Now with my 2.5 year old – he loves his ipad (Netflix mama) can flip between apps, gets to have control over his own mindless entertainment time – it rocks. All things in moderation. My advice to parents who disagree is to RELAX and watch your kids grow into normal highly functioning adults without the pressure to always be non-mindlessly involved. 🙂

  12. rkrishnans Says:

    adding one more video

  13. dholyer Says:

    I recall around 2 months ago hearing of a school district that is going treeless for school work, that paper from a tree. And thus making every student buy a iPAD. So then will the class bully get a felony for stealing the bright kids homework that they were to lasy to really do themselves. And with the wireless aspect how will it become easy to pass notes or answers to others, in cryptic forms also.

  14. Camille Buckley Says:

    Finally, soon-to-be parents, an excuse to ask for an ipad on your baby shower registry.

  15. jack shizz Says:

    A soon to be ipad owner, I am very excited about the prospects of the ipad as an educational tool. I should know. I am only 15 and still in school.

    I have decided to go completely paperless and use evernote to take notes in class.

    I do believe that it is a viable education option, but that stuff like tests should be administered in good old pen and paper form.

    The ipad should be a tool- not a replacement (for pen and paper and textbook learning) something to be used in addition to this to boost knowledge.