Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Eliana Colunga

Second Advisor

Richard Olson

Third Advisor

Pui Fong Kan


Screen media usage has greatly increased in recent years, even for children. Screen media can be very useful, and has been shown to be an effective tool for learning in children older than two years of age (Kirkorian, Wartella, & Anderson, 2008). However, children under the age of two experience what is called the video deficit effect; that is, they do not learn from screen media (Linebarger & Vaala, 2010). The majority of past research looking at the video deficit effect has focused on viewing videos as screen media. Yet, as technologies have advanced more and more children have gained access to increased amounts of interactive screen media. This study aims to look at learning with interactive screen media through a word-learning iPad application. The application utilizes the idea of desirable difficulty, the theory that there is a certain level of difficulty at which learning is enhanced, to maximize word learning by examining the role of semantic similarity and previous knowledge when selecting words for learning by the application. This study finds that the video deficit holds true even for interactive screen media. Furthermore, desirable difficulty design within the application does not impact performance on testing. These results indicate that a word-learning application, even an interactive one, may not be the best platform for increasing young children’s vocabularies.