Preschool Children's Collaborative Science Learning Scaffolded by Tablets

Fridberg, M., Thulin, S., & Redfors, A.
Research in science education


The purpose of this study is to examine how technologies, such as tablets, can be used in preschools to support children's collaborative explorative learning of natural science phenomena. This is done by analysing children's verbal communication during teacher-led activities regarding the phase changes of water; i.e. melting/freezing and evaporation/condensation. The authors investigate how children communicate when working with the water phases, and how children's communication is influenced by different learning contexts and tablet use.



The authors conclude that production of slow animation and timelapse photography is an effective digital tool to strengthen children's collaborative learning of natural science phenomena. The analysis shows that the children's work with these techniques stimulates the children to participate actively in group discussions and reflections on natural science phenomena and hypotheses. According to the authors, timelapse photography supports the children in noticing various features of natural science phenomena, whereas slow animation forces the children to reflect on various explanatory models for the same natural phenomenon, and how to represent these in the movie. The results indicate that these two techniques seem to promote more advanced reflections among the children, where they actively examine selected natural phenomena (in this case water phases), while at the same time focusing on creative problem-solving. The authors therefore conclude that group discussions followed by experimentation, stimulated recall discussions using timelapse photography and children's own productions of slow animations is a fruitful process when working with natural phenomena and preschool children.


The data was collected in one preschool, and a total of nine children aged 3-6 years and one preschool teacher took part. The study is based on video observations of eight different activities regarding water phases. The activities were set up with four different learning contexts: group discussion, stimulated recall in group, production of slow animations, and experimentation with or without timelapse photography. The activities were set around collaborative group work and were generally based on the children's own experiences.

An activity typically lasted between 0.5 and 1 hour and started with a group discussion between the children and the preschool teacher. The discussions were followed by a teacher-led demonstration/experiment, where the children participated in varying degrees. For example, the children froze or thawed the water, or the preschool teacher demonstrated evaporation by boiling water on the stove with the children around him. Another typical activity started with a stimulated recall discussion, where the children watched a timelapse movie or a slow animation with focus on evaporation. These video recordings were made by the children using a tablet and in collaboration with the preschool teacher. This was typically followed by another experiment or a slow animation production, where the children used playdough or LEGO to recreate the evaporation situation they had just seen in the timelapse movie. Based on a phenomenographic and design-based research approach, the analysis focused on children's learning processes, i.e. their thoughts, argumentation and reasoning.



Fridberg, M., Thulin, S., & Redfors, A. (2017). Preschool Children's Collaborative Science Learning Scaffolded by Tablets. Research in science education. DOI 10.1007/s11165-016-9596-9.

Financed by

This study has received funding from Kristianstad University.