Two visiting lectures about Media and Art Education

In the upcoming weeks two visiting lectures about Media and Art Education will take place at Helsinki. Welcome!

How does the use of digital media influence children’s reading and writing acquisition in primary school? the talk by Dr. Sabine Gerth will discuss two empirical studies that investigated the influence of digital media in primary school with a focus on reading or writing acquisition.

Even in times of digitization writing by hand is still a basic and complex skill that needs to be acquired by students at school. Primary students in German-speaking countries spend two-third of their time with writing on paper. The first study investigated if there is a difference when children write by hand on paper or on a tablet computer. We tested preschoolers, second graders and adults with the same tasks on a tablet and on paper to depict different stages of writing acquisition. Our results show that children in preschool and second grade are more influenced by the smoother surface of a tablet computer than adults. In the talk I will present these results in more detail and explain why we think – based on our results – that children in elementary and primary education should rather not acquire writing by hand on a tablet computer.

The second study focusses on the use of digital media in reading acquisition. Research has shown that reading while listening to an audiobook motivates to read more often (Nix, 2011). We wanted to know if this method also trains basic reading skills such as the decoding of words. With an eye-tracker, we recorded the reading patterns of 33 slow- and 34 fast-reading children (5th and 6th grade, primary school). On a computer screen, children read two excerpts from a German children’s book in two conditions. In the non-audio condition, they read the text in their individual reading speed, whereas in the audio condition, they listened to the audiobook (presented via headphones) while simultaneously reading the text on the screen. We compared reading times between groups (slow vs. fast readers) and conditions (audio vs. non-audio). Unsurprisingly, in the non-audio condition, slow readers read slower and refixated more often than fast readers. This result was expected given their developmental stage in reading. Interestingly, in the audio condition, both groups adapted their reading speed. Slow readers showed an acceleration (i.e., they tried to keep up with the audiobook speaker’s faster reading). For fast readers, we found a deceleration as they slowed down to the slower speaking pace. Apparently, when simultaneously listening to an audiobook, children are motivated to read for comprehension and can even modulate their reading speed without reduction of comprehension. In the talk, I will discuss more results on word length and frequency and how these show a different decoding strategy of the two groups.

Both studies investigated the application and challenges of digital media in writing or reading acquisition. They may contribute to the discussion about how teachers could use digital media at school efficiently and sophisticated.

Presenter biography: Sabrina Gerth studied linguistics and computer science at the University of Potsdam (Germany) and obtained her Ph.D. in cognitive science at the same place. Since 2018 she teaches German, multilingualism and digitization at the Pedagogical University of Tyrol (Innsbruck, Austria). Her habilitation project addresses reading and writing acquisition of preschoolers and primary school students with the use of digital media.

The second talk, Neuroeducation and Music Learning is by Prof. Mireille Besson. In France, as in many other countries, there is an on-going public debate on whether and how knowledge issued from neuroscience (the anatomo-functional organization of the nervous system) and cognitive neuroscience (the biological bases of behaviour) can be used to better understand cognitive development and to implement neuroscience-based education methods (i.e., neuroeducation). In the first part of my lecture, I will review some positive aspects of neuroeducation (the pro) but I will also point to some over-emphasis that may possibly have less positive consequences (the cons). In the second part, I will illustrate the pro and cons of neuroeducation by showing how knowledge in neuroscience and in cognitive neuroscience, as well as in linguistics musicology and psychology, can be used to study the influence of learning to play a music instrument on the development of cognitive functions in children and in adults. These different issues will hopefully generate a vivid discussion with the public.

Presenter biography: Research director at the CNRS, Mireille Besson has been investigating the influence of musical expertise, musicianship and music training on cognitive functions, specifically language, since more than 20 years. Together with her research team, she has published many articles on this topic in international journals with a widespread impact in the scientific community. Mireille Besson has directed the work of 45 Master students and of 18 PhD students in cognitive neuroscience These PhD students (except two) are all working in science, either in research centres or at the University, in France or in other countries. Mireille Besson is also strongly involved in the scientific evaluation process (involved in more than 40 PhD committees ANR, IUF, ERC, ITN, Finnish National Academy of Sciences and centre of Excellence…) since she is strongly convinced that science has to be evaluated by one's peers.



Time & place
  • How does the use of digital media influence children’s reading and writing acquisition in primary school? by Dr. Gerth
  • Monday January 27, 2020 at 14.00-15.30 (including discussion)
  • Siltavuorenpenger 5A Minerva Building, meeting room K108


  • Neuroeducation and Music Learning by Prof. Mireille Besson
  • Wednesday February 5, 2020 at 14.30-16.00 (including discussion)
  • Think Corner (Tiedekulma), 2nd floor

No sign up required.