Children from 3 to 6 years old, their families and cities (museums, theme parks, etc.)

Develop innovative learning methodologies and technologies to support curricular educational activities in kindergarten and in the first year of primary school, such as spontaneous or guided exploration, which exploits the central role of touch, manipulation and all five senses.

PON-Smart Cities and Communities and Social Innovation program of the Ministry of Education, held between 2014 and 2018



Michela Ponticorvo
Raffaele Di Fuccio
Federica Somma
from Natural and Artificial Cognition Laboratory NAC, Department of Humanities, University of Naples

Name: Inf@nzia Digi.Tales 3.6: an experience introducing innovating tools for learning for 3-6 years old children

Children, by now digital natives, are using high-tech devices more and more often, especially for playful purposes, but also linked to school training, as in the case of distance learning.
The Inf@nzia Digi.Tales 3.6 project has experimented with the potential of multimedia applied to the design of new educational activities, such as, at the same time, recovering the principles of spontaneous or guided exploration, the central role of touch and manipulation and the involvement of the five senses through the creation of innovative learning environments for children aged 3 to 6 years.

An example of technology to enhance learning are HABs or Hyper Activity Books. Traditionally, activity books are books designed for goals, such as entertainment or learning, and include interactive content, meaning the child is asked to color elements, write letters, numbers or words, or draw something. For example, the interactive content may be a game, puzzle, quiz, or picture, and the child’s natural involvement is used to promote learning.
HABs, experimented in the Inf@nzia Digi.Tales 3.6 project, instead, are exercises that combine digital (PCs, tablets, smartphones) and tangible (objects) elements and integrate teaching/learning models with scientific knowledge on neuropsychological processes underlying learning processes, the enhancement of traditional psycho-pedagogical practices and the use of structured and unstructured multisensory educational materials.

Thanks to a technology that implements augmented reality systems based on RFID/NFC, the child places a “tagged” object on a tablet reader or approaches a reader or a smartphone to the “tagged” object; the signal containing the code of the object is sent to a computer (desktop, notebook, tablet or smartphone) and generates a series of actions from the output devices (sound system, monitor) depending on the game or exercise that is being done.

The scenarios that have been included in the project’s app have experientiality as a fundamental matrix and, therefore, the execution of activities that aim at manual and physical interaction with the devices.

The exercises to be implemented focus on motor skills, hand-eye coordination skills and spatial organization.
Another area of learning that is particularly stimulated is that of images, sounds and colors. Digital media, based on the enhancement of classical materials, have a natural propensity to allow visual discrimination of objects, shapes and images.

The project has developed environments that stimulate different sensory functions, including smells and tangible objects. The Inf@nzia Digi.Tales 3.6 project has proposed solutions in a direction oriented to the multisensory, allowing the learning and discrimination of various types of sounds, noises, colors and tactile stimuli. This modality was developed in the project thanks to the application of the paradigm of tangible interfaces that allow the student to be able to interact with the physical space through their senses.

The interaction and manipulation of these objects represent the input of the GUI. The user, by touching the object, produces an effect on the digital plane, that is, in the educational exercise or game itself. Multisensoriality becomes the central development of interaction with the device.

The student does not have to simply interact with the screen. The student does not simply interact with the screen through the touch of his fingers, but can explore the space and objects around him, recovering a cornerstone of Montessori pedagogy.

The research had the idea of establishing a deep connection between the representation of technology by adults (whether parents or teachers) and the imagery that develops in the minds of children. The hypothesis that guided the research was based precisely on the idea that this representation in fact gave back the image of technology as a “passive” instrumentation, assimilated in some way, for this age group, used mostly as a screen for viewing figures, photographs and, above all, cartoons.

This idea of technology, however, was considered potentially modifiable by intervening in schools, proposing educational activities able to return to tablets, smartphones, screens in general, their instrumental role, useful precisely for the design and development of stories similar to those that generally convey, already pre-packaged, for the joy of young users.

The two years of research have allowed us to experiment and observe teaching practices related to the production of digital narratives (digital storytelling), carried out through the use of technologies available in the classrooms involved (mainly computers and tablets), and, in two of the classes involved, of a particular technology, the I-Theatre, a system that combines tools for the acquisition of research, images and sounds to software for the development of animated texts, achievable through direct manipulation of the elements on the screen.

In fact, the system makes the production of “digital stories”, i.e., short animated cartoons that are the product of the children’s creativity, made up of stories narrated by them, with their drawings, voices and gestures, captured by the screen on which two-dimensional representations of animals, characters and objects move by drag and drop.

The teachers of the 10 schools were, therefore, involved in every phase: from the initial training, to the planning meetings, up to the experimentation and reflection on practices. The research path has therefore included four different phases:

  • Phase I – The starting problem and the context analysis
  • Phase II – The digital narrative and instructional design
  • Phase III – Experimentation
  • Phase IV – The dissemination of results