The National Science Foundation awarded Georgetown psychology professor Sandra Calvert and researchers at the Children’s Digital Media Center based in the university psychology department a $2.45 million grant in late September to study the effects of interactive media on children’s learning for five years.

The purpose of the research project is to “gain a greater understanding of how interactive digital media experiences affect children’s long-term social adjustment, academic achievement and identity construction,” Calvert said. Researchers are also looking into what kinds of interactive digital media experiences children choose to have and the way specific digital technologies impact children’s learning.

Researchers are looking to conclude the project by Sept. 30, 2006.

According to one study, approximately 25 percent of children watch from four to 11 hours of television daily. In recent years, American children have also been spending a considerable amount of time surfing the Internet. It is therefore important to learn how these digital technologies can educate the future workforce, Calvert said.

“This research will advance both theory and method about our understanding of how the most popular pastimes of children influence who they become and how their interactions with digital media will impact how they will grow, learn and develop,” Calvert said. Calvert’s experience in the field includes a study in which she examined the impact of technology on children’s cogni-tive and social development.

Calvert’s already developed project, TVTOWN, is a multi-user domain that will be incorporated in the newly funded projected. In TVTOWN, researchers observe how sixth graders interact with other children online. The children are told to create unique characters. “This shows us how identities emerge over a course of time,” Calvert said.

Researchers are also hoping to learn how interactive technology helps make learning easier for children.

Calvert hopes policymakers and computer programmers will utilize the findings of her study. Nick, Jr., a division of Nickelodeon, produces television shows and computer programs for children and often asks psychologists and researchers for advice on effective learning devices for kids. “We don’t have a good body of knowledge at this point to answer their questions,” Calvert said.

“Too often media policies and children’s programs are created without a sound database to inform those decisions,” she said. “Our research will facilitate the work of policy makers and computer programmers who seek to create a world where delightful, quality interactive digital media for children flourishes.”

Branches of Georgetown’s Children’s Digital Media Center at the University of Texas at Austin, the University of California at Los Angeles and Northwestern University will also be included in the research project.

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