Just over a week ago, I had the pleasure of assisting members of the Cooney Center staff in a two-day research study at the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) in Queens, NY. The study, conducted in corroboration with NYSCI, focused on the interaction between children (ages 3-5) and their caregivers when reading two different science books: one regular book and one on the iPad. Would the iPad serve as a distraction to children or would it actually promote as much parent-child conversation and interaction as the print book? In order to answer this important question, the children and their caregivers were asked a series of questions after each book was finished as well as at the end of the session.
In theory, the research study seemed like a fantastic idea but you can never be certain until you try it out in the field. So, off we went to Queens. When we arrived at NYSCI for the study, Dr. David Kanter, who is founding director of SciPlay, warmly welcomed us. (SciPlay, formally known as The Sara Lee Schupf Family Center for Play, Science, and Technology Learning, was launched in 2010 as a design and research center for teaching children about science through play.) He then brought us to the Preschool Place, where we would be conducting our study. I was assigned the job of recruiting and signing up families for the study—a worthy job for a first time researcher!
As families started pouring into the museum I thought that recruiting would be a piece of cake. Boy was I wrong! The main problem seemed to be that both the parents and their children didn’t want to sit down and read two books, or parents did not expect to take time away from a “fun visit” to ask their kids to read. After all, a science museum with cool gadgets and a mini golf course is kind of hard to compete with!
Nevertheless, once I got people to sign up for the study, everything went pretty smoothly thanks to the Cooney Center’s great research staff. Of course, a few families walked out in the middle of the study because their child couldn’t sit still, but overall, most families were very cooperative. In addition, I found that this type of research really excited a lot of families and many even asked us to put them on our mailing list so that they could see the study when it was finished. In the coming weeks we will be reviewing the results of the study and I think they will be quite fascinating. We hope to share them soon!
I want to give a special thanks to Dr. David Kanter, Alice Stevenson, and the staff at the New York Hall of Science for their help at the museum. It was truly the perfect setup.
Zachary Levine is an intern with the Joan Ganz Cooney Center this summer. He is a rising sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he is studying international relations. In summer 2010, he worked at E-line Media as a playtester for Gamestar Mechanic and during the Spring 2011 semester, he worked at the Morgridge Institute for Research as a playtester for a newly released iPad game called Virulent.