On average, children ask more than 300 questions per day. It’s an educational process that can be beneficial for parents and kids alike — helping early learners to discover the meaning of the world around them, and forcing grown-ups to think about concepts and realities that they might never otherwise have questioned. But what happens to those questions in a classroom environment? Are they being answered, or is there a missing link in the learning circle? And, if so, could EdTech solutions such as smart toys help to finally close that gap?
According to the US Department of Education, the average elementary school classroom contains more than 20 students. That means if every child in an elementary classroom asks over 300 questions per day, elementary teachers must answer over 6,000 questions per day. While that might be feasible had teachers nothing else to do, they must also stick to a predefined teaching agenda. It’s every elementary teacher’s job to ensure that the kids who graduate their classroom have all the information they need to sit standardized tests and achieve traditional scholastic success.
According to Anna W., mother to two elementary school-age boys, this curriculum-based pressure often has a stifling effect on students’ inquisitiveness, particularly when it comes to children who are gifted intellectually:
“In the school environment, kids who are gifted often get a little stifled because they are essentially asked not to ask questions. I think that’s because the pressure of sticking to a curriculum in public schools often means that exploratory questions take away from the basic objectives of the class, and so kids who want to know more than the basic agenda can feel that they are being held back.”
Anna is far from unique in her feelings of concern. Many elementary parents feel that their kids simply aren’t getting the one-on-one attention they need in order to succeed in the average classroom setting. But despite that frustration, many emphasize that the teachers aren’t to blame. Marty R., dad to five-year-old Dennis, explains:
“We really couldn’t be happier with Dennis’ teacher. She always goes above and beyond to help her students, and Dennis just loves her. The problem is that she’s only one human, and she just doesn’t have enough time in the day to give every single one of her 19 students the individual help they need. When she gets bombarded with questions, her only choice is often to put them off and get back to the task at hand, otherwise no one would learn anything.”
So if parents can’t place the blame on elementary teachers or (at least in the immediate future) revolutionize classroom structure and size, how can they help to encourage kids’ inquisitiveness even when they aren’t around? The answer may lie in the rapidly evolving field of education technology, or “EdTech” for short. EdTech developers like startup team Elemental Path are working on creating AI-focused solutions to bridging the learning gap. The CogniToys Dino, for example, uses Elemental Path’s Friendgine technology to answer thousands of kid-friendly questions. In addition to making learning fun through things like games, stories, and riddles, the Dino protects kids’ inquisitiveness by never discouraging curiosity and always doing its best to answer the question at hand.
In a classroom setting, tools like the Dino can function almost as teaching assistants. During transitional times, kids can ask the Dino questions while their teacher sets up for the day’s next activity. This gives young learners a chance to exercise their endless curiosity, at the same time as giving teachers a much-needed intermission. Because the Dino can only access age-appropriate content, it can also be used without direct supervision during high stress times for teachers, such as rainy day recess.
Although educational tools like the Dino can never hope to take the place of a parent or teacher, they do present the beginning of a long searched for answer. And with such technology still in the very early stages of emergence, it goes almost without saying that the future of EdTech is a bright one for schools and families alike.