Guest Blogger, Tom Bannon, PLAY for Good, an initiative of AFTER-MOUSE.COM
AFTER-MOUSE.COM is a fast-growing industry leader in multi-touch technology applications. We have worked with hospitals and medical centers for more than 5 years. With more than 180 custom applications and 20 multi-touch, multi-player games for all age groups, our PLAY touch-table brings users together to experience truly collaborative activities. Our PLAY touch-tables are in pediatric departments, waiting rooms and child life centers throughout the U.S. This is an important partnership for us as we work to promote the empowering and healing benefits of collaborative, playful learning.
Play can take many forms – make-believe and role play, physical play, self-directed play, art and expressive play, and technology-based play, among others – all of which can have the potential to positively impact child development. While traditional play is widely accepted as beneficial, the body of research supporting the positive benefits of interactive, technology-based play is growing. Still, many parents, physicians, and policymakers have questions about the possible impact of today’s growing digital society, and the implications technology-based play can have on child development.
The positive benefits of technology-based collaborative play inspired us to launch PLAY for Good, an AFTER-MOUSE.COM initiative working with partners to place multi-player touch-tables in nonprofit children’s hospitals and youth centers. The PLAY for Good team helps connect funders and donors with nonprofit hospitals and children’s health organizations that can use PLAY tables to promote collaborative play through our educational, multi-player children’s games.
Today, 91% of children between the ages of 2 and 17 play technology-based games. By age 8, the average U.S. child spends 7.5 hours per day engaging with screen media. Despite the rapid uptake of technology, there is still little guidance on how to effectively harness technology as a tool for improving learning through play. Most guidance for children’s interaction with technology is based on “screen time,” the amount of time a child should spend looking at a digital screen. However, technology has progressed beyond the linear, sedentary relationship between child and screen, frequently thought of as watching television. One framework for understanding children’s interactions with technology identifies three categories of activity: exploration, problem solving and skills acquisition. Based on this framework, technology interactions can be observed, refined and guided to facilitate constructive technology-based play. Technology-based play is not restricted to single user, sedentary experiences; rather technology can facilitate highly interactive and collaborative play activities that enable peer-to-peer learning. Unlike adult-child interactions, peer-to-peer learning allows for a balanced power dynamic which helps children refine planning, negotiation, and cooperation skills.
The body of research on the impact of technology-based play on child development is still in early stages, however there is research confirming that, when used appropriately, interactive technology can be a valuable tool in promoting playful learning. In a recent study looking at play design for technology-based educational mathematics games, researchers found that child in-game learning improved when the child was placed in competition versus playing alone. Additionally, both competition and collaborative group play resulted in greater enjoyment of the educational exercise and stronger intentions to play again. The use of collaborative technology-based play not only improved math fluency, but cultivated an interest and willingness to continue to learn.
Interactive, collaborative play technology has changed the nature of children’s relationship with a device. When used appropriately, interactive technology can provide positive elements to children’s play and learning by facilitating exploration and experimentation in a dynamic digital multi-player application.
PLAY for Good is an AFTER-MOUSE.COM initiative working with partners to place multi-player touch-tables in children’s hospitals and youth centers to promote the empowering and healing benefits of collaborative play. Contact us at (202) 621-0629 or firstname.lastname@example.org