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Using tablet computers to teach preschool children to write letters: Exploring the impact of extrinsic and intrinsic feedback


Computers & Education Volume 102, Number 1, ISSN 0360-1315 Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


With the increasing popularity of touchscreen devices, using technology to support young children's learning has become more accessible. However, given the relative novelty of tablet computers, the research regarding their effectiveness in education is limited. The current study extends findings of current research demonstrating that tablet computers helped students improve writing, reading, and math abilities of elementary students by examining how tablet computers could support the development of preschool children's writing ability. We explored the effects of two types of feedback afforded by tablet computers: concurrent, extrinsic feedback (i.e., feedback provided by a tablet computer as soon as an error was made) and intrinsic feedback (i.e., naturally occurring sensory information resulting from practicing writing with one's finger). Preschool children (ages 41–65 months) learned to write eight uppercase letters in small groups three times a week for eight weeks in one of three ways: paper and pencil, tablet computer and finger, or tablet computer and stylus. The number of letters correctly written on a paper-and-pencil posttest depended on the instructional condition. Those who practiced writing with a stylus on a tablet computer wrote a similar number of letters correctly at posttest as those who practiced using paper and pencil. This result suggests that concurrent, extrinsic feedback did not provide an additional benefit over the visual feedback in this context. More interestingly, those who practiced writing with their finger on a tablet computer wrote more letters correctly at posttest than those who practiced using a stylus on a tablet computer. This finding indicates that an enhanced tactile experience was more beneficial for learning to write on a tablet computer than increasing the similarity between the practice tasks and the transfer task. However, whether the use of tablet computers is superior to practicing with one's finger on paper worksheets remains an open question. Several future directions are offered.


Patchan, M.M. & Puranik, C.S. (2016). Using tablet computers to teach preschool children to write letters: Exploring the impact of extrinsic and intrinsic feedback. Computers & Education, 102(1), 128-137. Elsevier Ltd. Retrieved April 10, 2020 from .

This record was imported from Computers & Education on January 29, 2019. Computers & Education is a publication of Elsevier.

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