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Are computers just for playing games on? Helping children learn from digital media

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  • Full or part time
    Dr JS Herbert
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Although schools invest heavily in computers and digital media for the educational purposes, a recent OECD report (“Students, Computers and Learning: Making The Connection”, 2015) shows there has been no related increase in children’s performance on maths, English or science tests. The video deficit (difficulty learning from digital media, compared to live demonstrations) is widely reported in infancy, but extends well into childhood and beyond. Why is it difficult to learn from digital media, and what can we do to improve learning outcomes given that digital media is prevalent in children’s lives. Our previous work with infants has shown that the language used to describe a new event at the time of encoding and retrieval, and the ability to physically manipulate objects improves both the retention and generalisation of new information. The aim of this PhD project is to utilise knowledge about how to improve learning outcomes at younger ages, to develop strategies for improving children’s and parents/teachers’ interactions with educational media and the generalisability of the knowledge that can be obtained from these sources. There will be the opportunity to work with multiple age groups (infants, children, adults) and to consider a wide range of educational avenues (e.g., action imitation, basic maths or science education, developing healthy behaviours or social responsibility).

Funding Notes

This is one of many projects in competition for the current funding opportunities available within the Department of Psychology. Please see here for full details:
Overseas students are welcome to apply for funding but must be able to demonstrate that they can fund the difference in the tuition fees.

Requirements: Applicants must have, or expect to obtain, a minimum of a first class or high upper second-class honours degree in psychology or a related discipline. In general awards are usually made to applicants with first class undergraduate degrees and/or at least a merit at masters level.


Barr, R. (2010). Transfer of learning between 2D and 3D sources during infancy: Informing theory and practice, Developmental Review, 30, 128–154.

Hayne, H., Herbert, J. & Simcock, G. (2003), Imitation from television by 24- and 30-month-olds. Developmental Science, 6, 254–261.

Richert, R. A., Robb, M. B. & Smith, E. I. (2011), Media as Social Partners: The Social Nature of Young Children’s Learning From Screen Media. Child Development, 82, 82–95.

Zimmermann, L., Moser, A., Grenell, A., Dickerson, K., Yao, Q., Gerhardstein, P., & Barr, R. (2015). Do semantic contextual cues facilitate transfer learning from video in toddlers? Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 561.

Related Subjects

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FTE Category A staff submitted: 34.45

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