Excessive Praise in Preschool Apps!

April 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Early Childhood Technology
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Excessive Praise in Preschool Apps!

by Karen Nemeth

I’m sure later I will gather up some research about feedback versus praise, but right now I just had to write about this.  I just downloaded some great new apps from reputable developers.  Despite great content and functionality (Amazing!), I was really turned off by TOO MUCH PRAISE!  (Hooray!)  I wish developers would briefly consult with early childhood educators (Yipee!)  or developmental psychologists (Way to go!).  We can tell you in five words or less why this excessive praise is a bad idea (Super!).

5.) disruptive

4.) meaningless

3.) irrelevant

2.) demeaning

1.) disruptive (yes – that one (You are great!) is so (Terrific!) important  (You did it!) I used it twice! (Hurrah!))

Are you starting to get that annoyed, interrupted, feeling yet?

When my daughter was 4 years old, she put her own shoes on.  If she put the shoe on the wrong foot, I’d ask her to try the other foot. Then she put the shoe on the correct foot, I would say “Good job!”. One day, she turned to me and said in her 4 year old exasperated voice: “Mom, I only HAVE one other foot!”.  OK. Thanks, 4 year old, for reminding a smart grownup that kids don’t need all that ridiculous praise.  They are happy to just get the job done!

When you do these apps with real preschoolers, you will see why this praise is so counterproductive.  The kids are usually so focused on solving the puzzle or finding the answer or completing their drawing that they don’t want some monkey to jump up and down saying meaningless words or some fireworks blasting in the background.  They just want to do what they set out to do and distractions do not help.  We really want what they want: young children persisting at tasks that provide increasing challenges and keep them thinking, solving, and creating.

The feedback they appreciate – that motivates them to learn more – that builds their “self-esteem” – is practical, informative feedback from the activity itself.  They feel good when the puzzle piece fits in, and then when the puzzle is completed to show the whole picture.  No shower of stars contributes to that feeling of accomplishment.

The matching pair IS the feedback they need.  Selecting the correct sequence that makes sense IS the accomplishment they wanted to achieve.

Adults are more able to maintain a train of thought when interrupted by mindless praise, but there is some concern that young children are not so able to do that.  When they are trying to build a story, or search for something, or complete a level of a game, each dancing horse or balloon bouquet is a step backwards in their thought process.  Haven’t we read enough articles lately about concerns that digital media use may contribute to attention deficits? My goodness, let’s not add any fuel to that fire.

Now… I don’t need any empty praise for this viewpoint, but feedback is certainly welcome! What do you think?

 

 

 

 

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