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14 November 2013

Live Interaction Crucial for Toddlers’ Ability to Learn New Words

Keywords: experiment, internet, language, learning, North America, babies, computer, eye-tracking, interactive media, kids, literacy, media, technology,

How important is social interaction for a toddler's new word learning? A Child Development study addresses this question and shows that when toddlers interact with another person (either live in person or via video chat) they are able to learn new words. However, without any form of interaction, they are not.  

Take aways

  • When toddlers interact with another person (live in person or via Skype) they can learn new words, however, without any form of interaction (i.e., via prerecorded videos) they cannot. 
  • In addition, the more toddlers focus on the eyes of the interacting partner, the better they are able to learn new words. 
  • For developers of educational materials it’s worth looking at ways to integrate a form of interaction in their language programs, as this increases toddlers’ ability to learn new words. 

Study information

  • The question?

    How important is ‘live’ interaction with another person for toddlers in their ability to learn new words? 

  • Who?

    36 children between the ages of 24 and 30 months (mean age: 26 months old; 53% were boys)

  • Where?

    United States

  • How?

    The toddlers were divided into three groups. In the live interaction group, the experimenter taught the children new words in person, in the live video chat group, the words were taught via live video chatting (i.e., Skype) with the experimenter, and in the prerecorded video group, words were taught via prerecorded videos where the experimenter video chatted with other children. In total all children were taught four fictitious words (i.e., blicking, twilling, frepping, meeping). Each word was spoken out loud a couple of times by the experimenter, and was accompanied by a matching action. For instance, the word ‘blicking’ referred to bouncing, so the experimenter moved a doll up and down. Afterwards, children were tested for their verb comprehension by completing different tasks (e.g., indicating where on the video they saw ‘blicking’). Eye movements were tracked for these tasks as well, in order to test whether they were also focused on the action that matched the fictitious word. 

Facts and findings

  • Only children in the live interaction and live video chat group learned new words, not the children in the prerecorded video group. 
  • Children who were trained via live video chats and live interactions, looked longer toward the matching action when asked where on the video they saw the word ‘blicking’, ‘twilling’, ‘frepping’ or ‘meeping’. 
  • No differences between learning styles were found in the amount of time toddlers looked at the experimenter’s eyes. 
  • However, the more toddlers were focused on the experimenter’s eyes, the longer they looked toward the matching action during the test.