Educational Technology Research and Development

, Volume 65, Issue 4, pp 889–908

Abilities and affordances: factors influencing successful child–tablet communication

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 

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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