Impact of using interactive devices in Spanish early childhood education public schools

Estefanía Martín, David Roldán‐Alvarez, Pablo A. Haya, Cristina Fernández‐Gaullés, Cristian Guzmán, Hermelinda Quintanar

J Comput Assist Learn. 2018;1–12. (JCR IF:1.859,  (2017) Q2 66/238 Education & Educational Research)


The adoption of Information and Communication Technologies in early childhood education is crucial for adapting traditional classrooms to the digital era. Over time, young children are increasingly using touch screen technologies such as tablets at home and in early childhood settings. However, the literature shows that there is a significant gap in knowledge of using this technology in early childhood education. Most researchers have focused on the pedagogical theory behind using touch screen devices, but there have not been many empirical studies about how these technologies affect students’ learning processes. This paper presents three learning experiences where early childhood students perform educational activities using tablet computers, interactive whiteboards, and paper cards. The results show that students who used the technology were more motivated and achieved better results that those who used paper cards.

What is already known about this topic:

  • The use of ICT in childhood education offers new possibilities for teachers to provide new and more visual digital learning content to their students.
  • Touch technologies seem suitable for young students. Because their motor skills are not fully developed yet, interacting with computers through a mouse and a keyboard is more difficult than doing it through natural gestures.
  • There are many studies in higher education levels that demonstrate that proper use of ICT in education can lead to an increase of the students’ motivation and learning.

What this paper adds:

  • Three empirical studies in three different childhood education classrooms to shed some light about how ICT can impact positively students learning.
  • A comparison of interactive whiteboards and tablet computers benefits regarding more traditional methodologies in childhood education.
  • Insights about how hardware and software can be combined to provide students a suitable learning environment in childhood education classrooms.

Implications for practice and/or policy:

  • Teachers should consider how they will create the workgroups. It is highly advisable to create heterogeneous groups taking into account the students’ skills. This way, members of the same group can help each other, creating a richer learning scenario.
  • Several teachers who participated in our studies said that they were not able to use ICT in their classrooms because they did not have enough digital competences. Our studies and the results obtained led them consider integrating technology in their classrooms. The good results obtained by the students who worked with technology changed the teachers’ perspective about the use of technology in the classroom.
  • Students showed a great interest in the use of tablet computers and interactive whiteboards, which translated into higher motivation compared with the students who solved the activities on paper.

A novel group engagement score for virtual learning environments

group_norm_atkinson_distributionJorge Castellanos, Pablo A. Haya, Jaime Urquiza-Fuentes

IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies, 10(3), July-Sept. 1 2017, pp.306-317,  DOI: 10.1109/TLT.2016.2582164 [download] (JCR, IF 2017: 1.869, Q2 Education & Educational research, Q3 Computer science, interdisciplinary applications)


STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education is currently receiving much attention from governments and educational institutions. Our work is based on active learning and video-based learning approaches to support STEM education. Here we aimed to increase student’s engagement through reflective processes that embrace video film-making, and subsequent on-line discussion and evaluation of those videos. We propose a group engagement score that takes into account both individual activity and similarity of participation, thus allowing corrective actions to be taken when unengaged students or groups are identified. We tested these ideas using our own social learning platform that combines the principal features of Social Networks with tools that facilitate collaborative learning design. This platform stimulates students’ learning by means of two main reflective processes: participatory production and peer-review. We evaluated this platform and the learning approach it supports in an Object Oriented Programming course and identified interesting differences between group engagement and video ratings. Our principal conclusion is that greater teacher and student awareness of the ongoing activities and group engagement are needed.

Mind the gap: Impact on learnability of user interface design of authoring tools for teachers


David Roldán-Álvarez, Estefanía Martín, Manuel García-Herranz, Pablo A. Haya

International Journal of Human-Computer Studies.  4 Jun 2016, pp. 18-34, doi:10.1016/j.ijhcs.2016.04.011 [download] (JCR, IF 2016: 2.863, Q1 5/22 Computer science, cybernetics)

  • We study the learnability of educational authoring tools for preventing teachers’ rejection or abandonment.
  • We evaluate two interaction paradigms of authoring educational tools: menu-based versus direct-manipulation.
  • The interaction paradigm of the authoring tool has an important impact on the tool’s learning curve’s entry point.
  • A consistent interaction metaphor allows teachers creating educational activities smooth and fast.


Few teachers include information and communication technology in the classroom, despite their potential for increasing attention and motivation for students. Educational authoring tools are intended to turn teachers into designers and deliverers of technology-enhanced educational content, and increasing the adoption of these tools is a key element for speeding up this transformation. This paper emphasizes the importance of learnability for preventing rejection or abandonment by of such an authoring tool, and how acceptance is deeply affected by the interaction paradigm and the creation metaphor used in the tool. We present an analysis comparing two design paradigms: the widespread menu-based and choice-guided interaction paradigm versus a consistent metaphor with direct manipulation. The latter was implemented in DEDOS-Editor, a novel authoring tool that allows the creation of diverse educational activities that can be performed on different devices, such as PCs, digital blackboards, tablets, and multitouch surfaces. An experimental study shows the tremendous impact that interface choices have on the tool’s learning curve. The results provide the first mapping of the choice of a direct-manipulation interface and its effect on the learning curve’s entry point, as well as a consistent interaction metaphor with smoother and fast-growing learning curves. This allows users to complete more tasks and gain more knowledge through experience, in contrast to menu-based interfaces. The initial use of the tool is thus made easier for users with no experience or information about the tool, and the advantages of experience and expertise in facing new challenges are facilitating. This work also highlights the appropriateness of learning curves as a tool for measuring learnability.

Cuatro magníficos

Cuando me dijeron que cuatro alumnos de segundo curso de Informática de la URJC querían aprender Android realizando una versión para tabletas de DEDOS, no me lo podía creer. Hoy en el SIMO he visto un video con el resultado:

El reproductor que han implementado coge un proyecto educativo y lo muestra según la definición que haya decidido el profesor, permitiéndo así que se puedan diseñar actividades educativas para tabletas Android sin tener conocimientos técnicos ¡Enhorabuena a Óscar, Javier, Jorge y Miguel!


El proyecto DEDOS surge con la motivación clara de responder a una pregunta básica: ¿cómo el aprendizaje colaborativo apoyado por la tecnología puede mejorar el proceso educativo en personas con discapacidad cognitiva? Las tecnologías multicontacto son superficies donde varios usuarios pueden estar interactuando a la vez de una forma natural a través de gestos realizados con las manos y/o con los dedos. Las posibilidades educativas y lúdicas de estas superficies son muy extensas. Según diversos estudios, la resolución de actividades de forma colaborativa fomenta enormemente el desarrollo cognitivo y social de los usuarios. Estos entornos permiten que los usuarios puedan llevar a cabo un aprendizaje colaborativo en donde la tecnología se pone al servicio de la actividad educativa y no al revés. Esto es así en cuanto que estos dispositivos proveen un espacio físico —una mesa— y se manipulan —manos y dedos— similares a los instrumentos tradicionales del aula. Ahora bien, con las ventajas que aportan los medios informáticos que potencian la creatividad, curiosidad e innovación del alumno, y flexibilizan el proceso educativo.

El primer resultado han sido dos herramientas informáticas cuya combinación permiten a los profesores crear actividades educativas que pueden ser ejecutadas en una mesa multicontacto. Hemos aplicado un importante esfuerzo para diseñar una herramienta que, siendo original, sea fácil de entender y de usar, y satisfaga las necesidades de los educadores sin requerir conocimientos técnicos.

Recientemente hemos publicado una versión on-line denominada DEDOS-web.

Hay que destacar que se ha tenido especial cuidado en que los proyectos educativos desarrollados con la herramienta de autor también puedan ser ejecutados en un ordenador personal o en una pizarra digital. Dado que este tipo de superficies han aparecido muy recientemente en el mercado, y su difusión, todavía, es escasa, hemos considerado que un aspecto clave para su adopción es que el profesor pueda probar y distribuir sus proyectos sin la necesidad de disponer de una mesa multicontacto.

La herramienta de autor permite crear nuevas actividades educativas o modificar las que hayan sido desarrolladas previamente por otros profesores o por ellos mismos.