Young children spend about two hours each day using screen-based media, about half of which is spent on educational media, according to their parents. Many studies report that children can learn a range of skills from well-designed educational media. Yet we know relatively little about whether and how well children are able to apply skills they’ve learned from digital media in the real world. This question is particularly important for subjects that involve learning about the physical world, like science. There is a small amount of evidence that children can learn science from media. At the same time, digital media differ from the real world in ways that may be challenging for children to reconcile: digital science media are two-dimensional, are often cartoon-like or anthropomorphized, and frequently focus on refuting misconceptions rather than teaching science facts. Yet there may be ways to design science media to support children in connecting their learning to the real world. A recent study conducted by Education Development Center (EDC) and SRI Education found that four- to five-year-old children can apply science skills that they learned from digital media in the real world. The study was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education’s Ready To Learn initiative, led by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS.
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