Abilities and affordances: factors influencing successful child–tablet communication

  • Adam K. Dubé
  • Rhonda N. McEwen
Research Article


Using Luhmann’s communication theory and affordance theories, we develop a framework to examine how kindergarten-grade 2 students interact with tablet computers. We assessed whether cognitive ability and device configuration influence how successfully children use tablet computers. We found that children’s limited ability to direct their cognitive resources affects child–tablet communication (i.e., sending and receiving information to and from the device). While it may appear that children simply know how to use this technology, they are actually engaged in a systematic assessment of the device governed by their level of attentional maturity. Interestingly, tablet computers designed for adults result in a higher frequency of successful communication but prolonged communication was most likely to take place on child-focused tablet computers. It seems that communication success and user engagement are independent.


Affordance Tablet computer learning Computer-mediated communication E-learning Educational technology Mathematics education 



Funding for this research was provided by the following Canadian Foundation for Innovation, Social Science and Humanities Research Council, and the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information. A very special thanks to our research assistants Kaitlin Woodward and Emilia Bustos Alegria who demonstrated excellence in the data coding and provided helpful comments throughout the analysis phase. Finally, thank you to the Semaphore Research Cluster on Mobile and Pervasive Computing.


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Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.McGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.University of TorontoMississaugaCanada

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