Research  | Touchscreen games |  Learning theories | Children

Children learn to tell time from touchscreens

Investigating the impact of touchscreens on children’s learning outcomes with two main questions:

  • Whether using a touchscreen was helpful in children's learning;

  • To what extent young children could transfer what they had learned on the touchscreen to another media.

to an age-appropriate learning materials to measure children's learning results.determineHowever, it is extremely important for us


Dressing room is a virtual try-on app designed to give users more confidence in their online clothing purchases.


Online shopping always has the frustration and guesswork involved in wasting money and time shipping returned items.


The project aims to create a customized 3D model of each user, based on their real-life measurements allows them to try on clothes from our partner retailers.

The users can judge the fit on their own body types instead of extrapolating from the pictures on the website, sort items by the degree of preference, and try on multiple items simultaneously—even from different retailers. 


Feature narrative

Design inspiration

Context study

User pain points

Problem statement

Executive summary

Materials choosing 

Experiment design 


​What we learned​




material requirement

1. Easy-understanding for preschool children (4-6 years old).
2. The learning outcomes can be tested through quantitative methods.
3. Participants could not learn it from teachers or other sources during the period of testing.
4. The learning tools can be presented in three formats: paper, touchscreen, and toy.

The problem 

To investigate the impact of touch screens on children’s learning outcomes, we need to find the best age-appropriate learning materials for preschool students.

My role

I generated the main ideas during the process of brainstorm and materials selecting. I interviewed children at 6 years old and seek advice from preschool teachers. In addition, I instructed 30 children to follow the task.

I attended the whole process, from idea generation to paper drafts.

The paper published on Frontiers in Psychology, November 2016.  

The discovery

Introducing telling time application

We first conducted literature review about preschool children' learning abilities/capabilities. Then we brainstormed together and generated possible ideas for learning materials. According to the review and brainstorm, we narrowed our options to three choices, consisting of mathematics, literacy and clock reading.

To select the best idea, I did face-to-face interviews with teachers and students in the kindergarten. 

According to the interview results from teachers, I found that telling time is the knowledge that teachers teach it once a year without daily practice to children. And compared with mathematics, literacy, parents usually tend to ignore teaching children on telling time in daily life. 

Participants answered dozens of questions and I calculated the accuracy to get quantitative outcomes. They need to finish printed time reading test on paper as a pre-test. Participants would complete post-test through different tools to test the transfer effect.

Toy clocks are necessity used as teaching tools. The “Learning Time” App can also satisfy our needs on the function of teaching to tell time.

Overall, telling time is a perfect task to present among different media fulfilling the final requirement.

Telling time experiment sample

EXperienment design

measure the learning outcomes

First, we screened children with no knowledge of telling time. Because children who had a knowledge of telling time before learning may lead to no improvement and celling effect. Then to scientifically measure the learning outcomes, a pre- and post-test design was adopted.

10 min of exposure to an iPad touchscreen app designed to teach time, three groups of 5- to 6-year-old children were, respectively, tested with an iPad touchscreen, a toy clock or a drawing of a clock on paper.

The apparatuses were used in the post-test of three different groups.
(A) Test module“What’s the time?” on the iPad touchscreen app used in the iPad test group.
(B) A real toy clock used in the toy clock test group.
(C) One of the test trials used in the paper test group. 

key finding

touchscreen can facilitate learning

Figure from Ref.  Using Touchscreen Tablets to Help Young Children Learn to Tell Time.
  • Touchscreen itself could provide support for young children’s learning.

  • Children could transfer what they had learned on an iPad touchscreen to other media. However, children tested with the paper drawing underperformed those tested with the other two media.