Posts by jkolak

Do educational apps have the potential to teach children language? Our research presented at Child Language Symposium in Sheffield

On the 12th July we had a pleasure to present our poster at Child Language Symposium in Sheffield. In our study we discussed the differences between language used in the most popular educational apps, the best seller books aimed at 2-year-olds and in language directed to children by their parents. See the attached poster to learn what we’ve found!

Introducing Shenitta, one of our Undergraduate Research Assistants

My name is Shenitta and I am a 1st year Undergraduate Single Honours Psychology student at the University of Salford.

From observing the diverse and multicultural society, I have developed an interest in mental health disorders and how environmental factors such as nutrition can affect gene sequences and hormones which can result in a change in mental health. To further my interests in the field of mental health disorders I previously volunteered for the Young Adults Services and Projects (YASP) my main role as a mental health mentor was to increase people’s well-being and set appropriate goals in order to improve their mental health.

I have worked alongside multiple research projects such as Manchester’s Psychology Research Team for one of the top Russel group universities in the United Kingdom. Also, as a Member of the Young People’s Advisory Group in Healthcare research in order to increase young people’s interests in developing research. During this role I reviewed applications for research whilst considering possible research areas relevant to young people’s development. 

Whilst attending Sixth form college where I studied A level Biology, Sociology and Psychology I became aware of the problems within academia with regards to ethnic minority parents and children’s issues faced in the Education system. I was delighted to be a part of the Parent’s Pupil’s Educational Network which was funded by a local Russell group university. My role as a member involved contacting the local council if parents had any issues with school places whilst offering support to parents on issues about discrimination of their children, vaccinations and bullying schemes.  

I then developed an interest in analysing how ethnic minority children develop and how bilingual students are affected during their educational success. I became a Saturday School Maths teacher to ethnic minority primary school students.

As a Research Assistant at the University of Salford Cognitive Development Lab and an aspiring Clinical Psychiatrist I aim to provide research experience whilst understanding the impact digital media has on children’s development. I assist with testing children in the lab using eye tracker and I help with data coding for the eye tracker study. I also help with the transcriptions of the language from children’s books.

Our research presented at the Digital Media and Developing Minds 2nd National Congress, NY

Our Research Assistant Joanna Kolak has attended the Digital Media and Developing Minds Congress in New York in October 2018 and presented a poster titled “Understanding the educational potential of touchscreen apps targeting 2-5 year old children”. The poster shows preliminary results of the first study of our ESRC funded project. Have a look at the poster to see which features used in children’s apps may capture children’s attention and facilitate learning.

Can children learn language from touchscreen apps? How you and your child could contribute

“My son loved taking part in the study at Salford Cognitive Development lab. It was a fun and interactive experience and we’re looking forward to a return visit”
-Parvinder, mum of a 2 year old boy

The burgeoning choice of children’s apps available to download can feel a little bewildering. So how can you tell if an app or a game that tries to be educational, really does have some educational potential?

The App market offers parents and children a wide range of apps and games to choose from. Many apps for young children are labelled as ‘educational’ but so far there has been no research that could determine whether they are actually effective in teaching children. Parents have little time to scope advice on what to buy or download from the internet. Unfortunately, there is minimal professional guidance about what is educational and what is not.

In our study carried out in the Cognitive Development lab at the University of Salford we are exploring how children aged 2 – 4 years learn language from educational touchscreen apps. We ask children to wear special glasses tracking their eye movement and we are looking at children’s attention during tablet use – what are they focusing at on the screen when they are using an app on the tablet and what can it tell us about their word learning.

Our research will help to identify whether touchscreen apps can benefit children’s learning. We want to help parents make better choices for their children’s use of digital media. Our 3-years research project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

A visit in our lab is fun!

We invite parents and children to visit us in our lab and to take part in our fun games. Our lab is a colourful child-friendly room full of toys with some space for parents to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee while we tell them about the study. During a visit to our lab, children play on our specially designed word learning app and do some fun language based activities with us. The study takes approximately 45 minutes together with short breaks between the activities. Children who have visited us so far had lots of fun with our games!

Parents whose children took part in our study had a very positive experience with us:

“Taking part in the study at Salford Cognitive Development lab was really good fun, my daughter especially liked all the lovely toys and interacting with Joanna, the Research Assistant, who was really good with her and quickly put her at ease. It was so interesting for me to watch and I was very impressed by how professionally the study was conducted. Would highly recommend, it’s a great opportunity to contribute to important research and for little ones to explore play in a different surrounding.”
-Kirstine, mum of a 2year old girl

If you have a child aged 2 – 4 and would like to visit us in the lab or get more information about the study, please get in touch: