Sunday, December 2, 2012

Motor Skill Development through Children's Touch Screen Usage is Both Praised and Critiqued

Touch screens have changed cell phones, check-out line registers, and even the airport check-in process. Now, young children are commonly exposed to, and adroit at using, touch screen technologies. Rather than playing with tangible toys and board games, children are able to play games on a screen using just one finger. How is this new implementation of touch screens affecting children’s motor development?   

Deftness in touch screen skills among
toddlers has become more common
The Educational World Accepts Touch Screen Technologies

Touch screens are a wonderful way for children to learn. Technologies such as the Apple iPad and iPhone and Google Nexus products offer applications that are interactive and engaging while demanding action from the users.
Lisa Guernsey, education and technology journalist at Slate.com, explains that touch screens offer interactive screen time, as opposed to the passivity brought about by simply watching television. Applications on touch screen technologies stimulate children’s brains, while teaching reading, spelling, and matching. Children play interactive games that demand attention, skill sets, and reactions. 

Touch Screens Enhance the Motor Skill Learning Process

There is a sensitive learning period in early childhood, primarily between the ages of 0 and 3, during which children have a natural dexterity for accumulating skills. During this stage, it is essential to stimulate children’s senses and provide them with enriching learning environments.

A 2010 study focusing on the effects of environment on motor development emphasizes the importance of exposing children to motor tasks, motions that activate the small muscle groups of the fingers and wrists: “The more opportunities given to children for practice, the more they develop their movement repertoire and refine the fundamental motor skills.”

Starting at a young age children develop
a sharp sense of timing and coordination
Children’s brains have robust neuroplasticity; the brain easily creates neural connections in reaction to motor and sensory experiences. Sensory motions, like swiping a touch screen, are combined with coordination, the synthesis of timing and order, to form a skill.
Dean of the University of Maryland School of Public Health, Dr. Jane Clark, has an expertise in the area of motor skill development, and has focused much of her research on children. She explains the advantage for young children in using a screen: “From a motoric standpoint…it is a lot easier to do something just with the hand than to do it with a tool.”

Unlike the process of using a pen, when using touch screens, children perfect hand-eye coordination as they trace letters with their fingers and feel the pattern of the letters.

The Concern about Motor Skill Impairment Due to Lack of Sensory Stimulation is Legitimate 

The Montessori style of learning stresses the importance of engaging all of the senses when teaching children. Games on touch screens resemble activities taught in Montessori classrooms, such as writing letters using the fingertips. However, the game applications miss the importance of the full sensory experience since the screen is taking the place of textures such as soft, bumpy, and grainy.

Motions such as grabbing, tying, and clapping are not required for touch screen usage. Haptics, the combination of touch and movement, are important for developing such motor skills. Due to their dimensionless essence, touch screens do not facilitate haptic movements.

Touch screens should only be used as supplements to actual toys, balls, and games; they should not replace real toys for fear of depriving children of dimensions, textures, and weights. 

Gross Motor Activity is Ignored in this Technological Era

The main problem in the touch screen era, as Clark shares, is the amount of stationary behavior, which in turn, leads to a lack of full body utilization. Humans were not created to sit all of the time. When supplementing screens for physical play, children strictly develop sensorimotor coordination in the hands. The value of gross motor development, the movement of the larger body parts, is discounted.

Clark cautions that when touch screen applications, such as a sporting game, replace actively playing basketball, the child is missing out on utilizing his full body potential.
Physical play is critical even in this touch screen era

Gross body movement, the use of larger body muscles, in this generation is not as strong as in previous generations when physical play was the main activity in children’s lives, says Clark. “If your time is spent 90% on touch screens and 10% on gross motor…your brain’s going to be 90% touch screens and 10% gross motor—I don’t think that’s a very good balance,” she explains.

Clark highlights that since only about 50 of human’s 620 muscle pairs are found in the hands, people must not forget the importance of full  body activities in this sedentary age. 

Moderation is the Answer for Children’s Time Spent on Touch Screens

Without much hesitation, Clark shares, “I think you just celebrate the new technology, use it.”

As is common with many new technologies, concerns exist about how touch screen usage will affect children in the long run. If used in moderation, children’s motor skill development will not be stunted, and are even stimulated, by the touch screen technologies.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Project Prelude on Touch Screens and Motor Development

Touch Screens And Motor Development

The Issue at Hand

The increase in technology is an issue that never ceases to be discussed. More specifically, the touch  screen era is a current issue that must be applauded and critiqued. Touch screens have changed cell phones, laptops, check-out line registers, and airport check-in screens. The “tablet” was created based off of the sleek touch screen technology. Touch screen equipment has a smooth surface, allows direct contact, and requires less hardware

Released in 2004, the Nintendo DS© was the first popular video game based on touch screen technology. LG Studio Kitchen Products make touch screen technology for the whole range of kitchen appliances. The hand-to-icon electronics are now an integral part of day-to-day lives.

Thumbs up or Thumbs Down?

One major issue with touch screens is that the technology requires less from other tactile skills and senses. All that is needed to operate a touch screen is one single finger, as opposed to a mouse and keyboard or buttons and switches. Everything on the screen is flat and dimensionless. The fingers are less stimulated. These issues may be efficient to prevent error or for creating simpler user interface technologies.

However, the simplistic ways of these new technologies may have a negative effect on the development of fine motor skills. Where is the tactile sense, besides for feeling the smooth screen? And only one finger is actually needed to operate the system.

Children, specifically, need to learn how to use their senses. The critical learning period is crucial for learning the tactile sense. Touch screens may be affecting their motor development. Through more research and expert interviews, I will report back soon. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"The State of the 2012 Electronics-Mobile Devices"

The technological side of the participation divide

Participation divide is a serious concern in the technological device world. People are picking up on and adapting to technology at different rates. Some focus on building websites and other people are simply learning how to navigate web browsers. Children are learning different computer and technological skills. There is not a regimented list of required skills on a computer for school children, while math systems in America must teach certain material. The government regulates public school systems’ educational syllabi and proctors standardized testing to check up on the success of the education. But in this new day in age where everything is constantly being updated, where is the consistency?
            The participation divide acknowledges that people come from different backgrounds. Not everyone has access to computers. Those who have minimal access do not have the opportunity to dramatically enhance their computer efficiency. It is not uncommon to see two-year-old children playing games on smartphones. At the same time, it is not uncommon to see adults struggling to find employment due to a lack of computer literacy. As explained in the article “Importance of Computer Literacy in Job Hunting,” there is a essential need for computer skills: “today's job seeker needs basic computer literacy skills to be competitive. Not only will computer skills allow job seekers to attain jobs they would otherwise be unqualified for, these same skills are increasingly necessary simply to find a job, as more and more companies post openings online and require potential employees to fill out applications online or use email to send resumes.” 

The election in relationship to the participation divide

The research summary by the Pew Research Center “The State of the 2012 Election-Mobile Politics” relates to the issue of the participation divide. Some voters are fully electronically adept. They use technology to educate themselves on the political updates. Reading articles and posting blogs about candidates is a given. Apps are created to track polls. Debates can be streamed live on the computer or followed via Tweets. But, then there are those who do not rely on or use their smart phones.  Are they at a disadvantage? Are they unable to keep up with politics? Is reading a day old newspaper a waste of time?

            I think the participation divide will assist those who are electronically savvy and inclined to be more educated and more closely linked to politics. Mobile devices can provide so much. Whether a Republican or Democrat, there is so much information to be read and processed. Mobile devices make this information all the more so available. However, people who are at the other side of the divide will just be less privy to the thousands of sources found via mobile devices. They will be left to read hard copy newspapers or, if possible, read about elections on simple websites via their computers.
            The two parties can promote their candidates using mobile apps very easily. People who do not use smartphones are at a disadvantage.  In the upcoming years, door-to-door volunteers who poll communities will become less popular. Instead, polls will be done online. As well as being less personal and easier to corrupt, the online polls will not be available to people who do not use technology’s newer features.
            Whether the participation divide increases or decreases in the upcoming years, there will always be a range of talents and skill sets amongst the population. The political races will continue to be a hot journalism topic. So, as journalism is leaning towards the technological world, so too, will the information about politics. Mobile audiences will be able to find and learn from more sources than non-Internet users. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Israel’s Up and Coming Entertainment Industry

Israel’s Up and Coming Entertainment Industry

The State of Israel is an incubator; the 64-year-old country is known for innovation, creativity and entrepreneurial projects. Israel has a talent for creations in the entertainment world, whether it be the Israeli films or television series. Today, the film and television show industries are flourishing.

Israeli Films--International Fame
In the beginning of October 2012, Taken 2 and Hotel Transylvania were both at the top of the US and Israeli box office charts. While most films screened in Israeli theaters are produced in the United States, Israeli films and French films also have a significant presence in the entertainment industry. 
Two recent Israeli films have received worldwide acclaim. Footnote (2011) was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Foreign Film in 2012, and Waltz with Bashir (2008) won the Golden Globe for the Best Foreign Language Film in 2009. 

The fame from these two films, and others, has boosted the industry, “It's an indication to the renaissance of Israeli cinema, which has grown from a fledgling industry with poor cinematography and low box office sales to a darling of world film festivals,” as reported in an article named “Israeli film industry is a surprising powerhouse.“ Since 2000, the Israeli parliament has allocated $10 million annually for the Israeli film industry to produce full-length films. After the government began encouraging these productions, Canadian and European producers started investing $15 million toward Israeli films on an annual basis. Both public and private investments have allowed the market to develop and establish a name for itself in the Israeli entertainment industry.
Israel has become a popular place for film festivals. This past year Jerusalem held a successful two-week film festival. The city of Tel Aviv hosted the Tel Aviv International Film Festival in the beginning of September.

Israeli Television Making a Mark
Israel began broadcasting television in 1968, 20 years after the establishment of the country. While American viewers had already been gathering around the screen for I Love Lucy since the 1950’s, Israel was still content with radio broadcasting. For the next 18 years, there was only one Israeli television channel. Despite the late start and initially slow progression, the current Israeli television industry is thriving.
            Israelis wait all week for television’s Eretz Nehederet (A Wonderful Country). These comedy skits are the Israeli version of Saturday Night Live, mocking every aspect of society and culture. Additionally, like American children, Israeli children are raised on cartoons. Kofiko is the most popular and successful children’s television boasting 2.4 millions internet downloads a month.
In more recent years, Israeli companies have been selling television rights to Hollywood companies. “Israel is making a name for itself as a country that produces good entertainment. The first Israeli drama series adapted for American television, HBO's In Treatment, was nominated for an Emmy this month. Several other Israeli-based shows have been sold to networks like NBC, CBS, Showtime and Fox,” shares a reporter from Tel Aviv. In 2008, HBO bought the rights to the Israeli show Bitipul that was translated to English and reproduced as the popular show In Therapy

Showtime’s Homeland is a direct reflection of the Israeli series Hatufim (Prisoners of War). Hatufim was the first foreign-language exclusive series to be offered on the entertainment website Hulu.com. Check out the following clip that highlights both Bitipul and Hatufim

The Israeli industry is hugely influenced by American entertainment. One of the most popular shows in Israel is Ach HaGadol, a spinoff of America’s series Big Brother. NBC’s quiz show called Who's Still Standing? where contestants who answer questions correctly fall through the floor is based off of an Israeli idea. The show Kochav Nolad is the Israeli version of American Idol. Rechov Sumsum was created after the American favorite Sesame Street, with similar big, fuzzy animals and catchy songs to keep children engaged. Dora the Explorer has made it to Israel, as well. However, instead of teaching Spanish to English speaking children, the Israeli version teaches English to Hebrew speaking children.

What makes the Israeli film and television industry so successful? The small country of 7 million people is a place of innovation and creativity. With low budgets for shows, producers must be creative and take risks in order to generate success. For example, Bitipul keeps costs low by filming on only two sets. The creativity and artistry of Israeli producers puts real life in simple terms, “…And what a story they tell—of a vibrant, conflicted, modern society grappling with issues that audiences throughout the world can relate to.”