Posted by: Roseann Murphy | February 17, 2011

Technology can not replace human interaction.

baby laptopAs adults, we rely on technology to help make our lives a little bit easier and sometimes we might be inclined to feel like the earlier in life our children have a grasp of technology the better off they will be. However, many thoughtful parents are weary of trusting their child’s developing minds to technologies meant to “enhance” the infant learning process.

The attached article and accompanying video is a remarkable account of the mind of child at a very early age and the role that technology plays in their life. This could potentially answer the questions originally posed by Dr. Jane M. Healy in her book, Endangered Minds, about how exactly a human child’s mind interacts with a, “machine mind” of a computer.

Remarkably, these scientists found that not only does the mind of an infant younger than 8 months have an incredible ability to decipher the differences and nuances in different languages, but that there is also a tremendous value to where the information comes from, be it a computer or a real human being. It turns out that when certain specific and identical information is presented to an infant from a computer instead of from another human being, the child absorbs NOTHING from the machine, but when that information comes from a human being, the child has the incredible capacity to comprehend language completely foreign to them. This proves that human interaction with children since they are born helps to a natural and regular development of a child brain.

When parents have to search for a caregiver to be with their children, they should have very present that the way that this person talks and interacts with the child will have a very important impact in the life of the child. This is why providing your child with exceptional childcare from informed and educated professionals is one of the most important investments you can make for the life of your child. Education at any age is not a luxury it is an essential need. Please make sure to watch the video on the page as well.

If Babies Can’t Learn Through Videos, Can Students?

It’s time for more ‘systems thinking’ about technology in education.

Babies are geniuses when it comes to learning languages. They don’t even have to try. All they need is exposure. But it turns out that when that exposure happens through a screen, these infant savants fail.

If babies can’t learn a language—something their brains do automatically—when technology is in the way or when the human touch is missing, that says a lot about what we don’t know when it comes to learning and technology.

I’m all for teaching students how to use technology and integrating software and hardware right into the classroom when it works. But it doesn’t always work. Or more fittingly, it doesn’t work equally for all kinds of students in different circumstances, just as learning a language doesn’t work the same for young children as it does for adults.

The Limits of Technology’s Usefulness
A TED talk video posted today called “The linguistic genius of babies” exposed research that showed babies learn language through contact with real humans, but not through television screens and audio recordings.

Patricia Kuhl, co-director of the Institute for Brain and Learning Sciences at the University of Washington, shared some of the results of her research in the talk, which was recorded in October 2010 in Seattle, Washington, at TEDx Rainer. Infants between six months and one year old were taught how to pronounce Mandarin sounds through either audio, videos of real people with sound, or live human interaction. The babies’ ability to reproduce the sounds increased with time only when they were taught in the face-to-face setting. Babies who learned through video and audio got worse. (For more details on the methodology and experiment, see the video.)

Kuhl’s findings should remind us of the limitations of technology in learning—or at least to remember that it has plenty of advantages and disadvantages in certain situations and with certain kinds of people.

At a time when governments, non-profit organizations, and private industry are investing heavily in technology for learning and communication, from distance education to virtual business meetings, Kuhl’s talk, for me, is a slightly unnerving reality check.

Full article at

Post by: Magdalena S. Palencia


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Regarding Baby, Roseann Murphy. Roseann Murphy said: New Post at Little River School Online Blog. […]


    • Lisa, thank you for tweeting this information. We appreciate your continued support!!


  2. Fascinating study! Why am I not surprised that babies learn from humans and not machines? Technology was not meant for substitute teachers.


    • Thank you for commenting. Technology really is amazing, but you are right, a good teacher is irreplaceable.
      -Magdalena S. Palencia


    • Patt, thank you so much for your comment. Technology is not meant as a substitute for human interaction or as a teacher for our children. Research continues to show the problems associated with early intoduction to technology. Thank you again. Continue reading…if you see anything that you might like to share on the FB or Blog please let us know.


  3. I really enjoyed reading this article. I am taking a media literacy and youth call and this article is perfect for my class, just the other day we were talking about how from a very young age, parents put their kids in front of the TV or other media devices and use it to babysit the kid. how are the children going learn what human interaction is if they don’t ever interact with their parents or other people.. the TV does not talk back to them.


    • Thank you Johanna for taking the time to read and comment! I’m happy that this was useful for you!
      – Magdalena S. Palencia


  4. I am afraid I cannot see how your conclusion, ‘providing your child with exceptional childcare from informed and educated professionals is one of the most important investments’ has any relation to the study result that technology does not impact on a 6 month old babies language take-up.

    Common sense seems to say, that the quality of the childcare is irrelevant to the outcome. Talking to the baby in different languages is the only available conclusion demonstrated in the study as shown.

    Also Pattcatt’s comment, technology was not meant to substitute teachers, is not relevent to the study. Babies do not have teachers, children have teachers.


    • Peter,
      Thank you for reading our blog. This caught our attention because it confirms and reinforces once again the value of human interaction during the crucial first few months of a child’s life. This study does not simply mean that technology has no impact on a child, it does to a tremendous degree. If, in lieu of a caregiver or parent, a child is left in front of a television during that crucial period of time, then the child is missing out on taking full advantage of the enormous potential of their brain during that time.
      Scientific fact tells us that quality childcare is essential to the brain development of a person. During the key first few months childcare experts use their scientifically based knowledge to help the child develop their mind to it’s full potential.
      Surprising as it might seem, to a child who is new to the world, everyone and everything is a teacher, some better than others.
      – Magdalena S. Palencia


    • Peter, This article was particularly important research based on the conclusion of the studies. Since we are aware of the inordinate amount of time very young children sit in front of computers, television or with caregivers who do not speak to them, we felt it absolutely necessary to site this information. It is only recently that science has been able to validate the capacity of the brain and what effect certain stimulation or lack of has on very young children. Thank you for your very candid comments. Research considers parents as their child’s first teachers..and if 68% of children under 12 months of age are in a child caring situation, then that substitute is their teacher as well. Sad, but true.


  5. […] Technology can not replace human interaction: “It turns out that when certain specific and identical information is presented to an infant from a computer instead of from another human being, the child absorbs NOTHING from the machine, but when that information comes from a human being, the child has the incredible capacity to comprehend language completely foreign to them.” […]


  6. I agree with you about babies learning more from human interaction, or face to face learning. I really think that all of this research is great. I love to learn about what is going on in the world with regard to development and literacy, etc. But the more I read about this subject matter, the more I see the need to stick with the basic premise of nature. Watch the Discovery Channel and see how the baby animals follow their moms. The family units of the elephants. Give a book to a child that he is able to read. Realize that the developmental process can be different for different individuals. You are not finished if you fall behind in 1st grade. The video and the article were both thought provoking…

    This comment was posted via email. I was not sure how to post it except to cut and paste.
    This comment was received via email address: swatty1202@AOL.COM on Sunday, February 20, 2011


  7. Interesting piece. I wonder what the research is on children as they get older. My sister in law is on disability as she has irreparable damage to her neck and shoulders from working at a computer full time for 20 + years. I love technology and what it has given to us but we just keep moving faster and faster. No one has time to just sit with their infant and listen to their breath and just be. How I miss those days – such a different pace.

    Sending you love and thank you for sharing.


    Please note: This comment was sent via email. I cut and pasted it to the comment column for all to read. April has “hands-on” experience with LittleRiverSchool. Two of her three daughters were enrolled at LRS until they moved. April’s daughters are in college and high school. (


  8. Hi Roseann!

    That article was really good!!! It’s so true! I feel that our sense of
    community is slipping away into something digital and virtual. So very scary. I
    remember in college taking a class that was taught on audio tape – I wrote to
    the newspaper about what a load of ____ that was!!! Do I remember anything?
    Just how mad and frustrating it was. There was no one to ask whenever I had a
    question! But getting back to younger children, I am so sad when I see babies
    frequently ‘entertained’ by flashing lights and loud sounds – Babies, and
    children should be observing their world and learning from it. Frequent
    exposure to toys with lights and sounds only distract them from it. Besides,
    how is a child supposed to learn, and eventually appreciate, the nuances of
    everyday life s/he is always distracted? I feel they also grow up, expecting to
    be entertained all the time – and they end up unable to figure out imaginative
    ways to entertain themselves. Sadly, I think I’m on the losing side of this
    battle, and feel so outdated when I give quiet toys to my children, nieces and
    nephews. I am the boring aunt that gives books and toys that almost never needs
    batteries!! And one last thing – I don’t know how old this research is, but I
    did read that young children can’t distinguish between fiction on tv and
    reality. Any preview or advertisement for the Mentalist or CSI is completely
    real to a child. Television is getting worse and worse as the tv producers push
    the boundaries further and further – always searching for a new way to shock the

    Wow, Roseann! You know me well and what things I love to rant about!!!!! 🙂
    I should run though, guess who’s sick today? Everyone in my house but me and
    the dog! Keep your fingers crossed for Josh as he’s just starting this bug that
    gave my husband and daughter a nasty bought of bronchitis!

    Love to you all!


    posted via email from


  9. Great article. Thank you. I have always intuitively believed in the role of emotion, empathy and human contact in the learning of languages and see little substitute for a great language teacher or fun with a bunch of native friends. I suppose the problem for many language learners is that they don’t always have the opportunities to integrate socially into the native-speaking world. (As a consquence I have run Spanish language house-parties in the Pyrenees to do just this.) It all makes so much common sense .. i just lacked the theory behind it. My own daughter, Marion, was exposed to 3 languages on the birthing table – even before the umbilical cord was cut! Common sense seems a bit of an underated science. Thanks for enlightening me!


    • Thank you for your comment.
      It very rewarding when we can validate what we knew from using common sense.
      – Magdalena



    Estoy de acuerdo. La tecnologia puede ayudar a la educacion, pero no puede ser el unico metodo de ensen~ar. Por ejemplo, muchos maestros usan canciones como parte de una leccion. Mis canciones estan aqui:


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