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date: 24 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Toys have always reflected the latest developments in science and technology, from music boxes to electric trains to computer games and robots. This chapter considers how children learn to play with modern technology, and what they learn through that play. Playful learning, or guided learning (see Fisher, et al., this volume), is illustrated through selected studies conducted in schools, homes, hospitals, and play settings.

Children often use smart toys in traditional ways, bypassing the technology. There is little research on whether smart toys increase children’s cognitive or social skills, although some toys are designed with these goals in mind. Electronic toys and digital games keep children on task for a longer period of time. New media do not necessarily displace older media so much as add to the range of play options available.

Children learn to use new technologies largely through trial and error—through exploration, experimentation, and play—and in collaboration with others, both face to face and online. A computer game is learned by playing it. The typical computer game involves a range of cognitive activities: remembering, hypothesis testing, and strategic planning. Games involve written text, visual environments, and speech. Examples are given of videogames in health, education, medicine, and science.

Modern technologies are also used to study play, with data collected via the Internet, with mobile phones and video cameras. Global positioning systems allow researchers to study play in vivo, tracing children’s outdoor movement over time. New forms of play objects and interactivity bring with them questions about our relationship with nature and with one another.

Keywords: Keywords, smart toys, interactive toys, videogames, science and modern technology, Internet, learning, education, health, research methods.

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