The team behind building block toy Click-A-Brick says while students at Lehigh University have admirable intentions, their development of a mobile app to help preschoolers understand geometry concepts is misguided.
The as-yet-unnamed app, which is still in the development stage, is being touted as a way to give young children "a meaningful and accessible block-building experience — without actual blocks," according to a news release from the developers.
To build their app, Lehigh University undergraduate students Faye Sheppard and Luke Zhang, school psychology doctoral student Brittany Kuder, and associate professor of psychology Robin Hojnoski studied local school children in Pennsylvania playing with blocks to get a better understanding of their geometric abilities and how complex their structures are.
"We know a lot about kids' development in number sense but far less about kids' development of shape and geometry and spatial sense," Hojnoski said in a prepared statement. "Three-dimensional shapes are really important, and how kids use shapes ... is really related to spatial sense: being able to have a design in mind and then mentally rotate to form that design and then make it happen. Those things are really important to overall spatial sense and spatial development, which are key skills related to STEM fields."
But, while the team behind the new app should be commended for wanting to help preschool children with their development in the area of geometry, Click-A-Brick Co-Founders Jason Smith and Georg de Gorostiza say, designing an app seems counterproductive, particularly with overwhelming evidence that preschool children should spend less time interacting with electronic gadgets.
“To be fair, we’re basing our opinion on what the app developers have said about the app and not the actual app itself, as it hasn’t been completed yet,” de Gorostiza said. “However, what the developers have said in their news releases sounds a bit silly to us, particularly the part about wanting to give children a building block experience without any actual blocks involved. Obviously spatial development is important for children and building blocks definitely help with that development, so we just don’t understand the point of developing something that encourages taking actual building blocks out of children’s hands and putting a tablet into their hands instead. It sounds almost comedic to even say, especially considering how much it’s been in the news lately that children of all ages need less time with electronic gadgets and more time interacting with the world around them.”
De Gorostiza says with groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Kaiser Family Foundation and countless childhood development experts calling for less screen time for kids and more person-to-person contact, creating this app seems like a step in the wrong direction for childhood development.
Although de Gorostiza concedes that the app may have a use for situations where parents are out in public and don’t want to bring along actual building blocks, like at a restaurant for example, this could easily perpetuate the problem of young children being exposed to too much screen time too early.
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