Exploring Preservice Teachers' Attitudes About the Usage of Educational Robotics in Preschool Education

Exploring Preservice Teachers' Attitudes About the Usage of Educational Robotics in Preschool Education

Stamatios Papadakis, Michail Kalogiannakis
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4576-8.ch013
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Educational robotics have become popular worldwide with a broad range of students, including preschoolers. Although the impact of robotics technology in classrooms has been extensively studied, less is known about preschool teachers' perceptions of how robotics technology impacts learning and its relation to use in the classroom. This is problematic since we know that teachers' perceptions have a great influence on their teaching practices. This study used survey data gathered from 102 students of the Department of Preschool Education in a University in Greece. A questionnaire developed by the researchers were used as data collection tool. At the end of the study, it was determined that preservice preschool teachers' attitudes about educational robotics usage in preschool classrooms were positive although they lack in relevant knowledge. These findings are discussed with respect to their educational implications.
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Over the past two decades, the current societies have been establishing their economic and social prosperity on the introduction, diffusion and effective use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in all every-day and professional activities of their citizens (Bikos, Stamovlasis, & Tzifopoulos, 2018). As a result, the debate whether children should be interacting with and using digital technologies is now considered to be outdated (Walsh & Campbell, 2018; Papadakis & Kalogiannakis, 2020). New digital and interactive technologies offer young children the possibility to develop and integrate knowledge about computer science and engineering (Kalogiannakis & Papadakis, 2020).

Nowadays young age children can build their own robot, program it to do what they want, and decorate it with art supplies (Bers, 2018). Thus, in education sector especially, the question today evolves around how children will be enabled to use digital technology in a way that best benefits them (Demetriou & Nikiforidou, 2019; Papadakis, 2020).

The rapid developments of technology have affected the use of technological tools such as smart mobile devices, mobile applications, and robots in preschool education. Over the past 5 years, there has been a recent surge in the number of robotics kits, and relative toys for young children (Sullivan & Bers, 2019). For instance, STEM education toys, such as Beebot, and KIBO offering a variety of programming interfaces, are being marketed as tools to teach computer programming and problem-solving skills in preschoolers (Hamilton, Clarke-Midura, Shumway & Lee, 2019; Sullivan & Bers, 2019). This is considered important as Wing advices that computational thinking skills must be introduced from the early years of schooling in order to ensure a common and solid basis of understanding and applying these skills (Wing, 2006, p. 3720).

In general, children who engage in playful programming activities with computational toys utilize CT skills as they participate in computational challenges (Hamilton et al., 2019). Studies have found that even young children can be introduced to easy to use visual programming tools and robotics platforms (Chalmers, 2018). As early childhood is an important time for young children to grow, play, and explore the world they live in (Bers, 2018) robotics can be an effective way to introduce computational thinking as it involves students being able to systematically process tasks and developing the sequenced step by step coding commands needed to program a robot (González-González et al., 2019). The same researchers highlight the fact that educational robots promote superior cognitive functions, like executive functions involved in problem solving, such as reasoning and planning, in typically developing preschool children (González-González et al., 2019).

Although the potential positive impact of technological tools such as tablets and robotic kits on learning in schools has been widely acknowledged, more research is needed to explore in depth the teachers' perceptions of the impact of robotic kits in learning in preschool education (Papadakis & Kalogiannakis, 2010), and how these perceptions could inñuence the use of these tools in the learning process. For instance, Yelland (2011) highlights the fact that children often come to their early learning service with knowledge of technology that may be unfamiliar and even intimidating for their educators. On the contrary, lack of technical knowledge and support has been identified in relevant literature as a potential challenge for teachers implementing robotics in their classroom (Alafodimos, Kalogiannakis, Papadakis & Papachristos, 2009; Chalmers, 2018). As such, educators must think carefully and critically about how their beliefs and confidence with technology influence what they choose to integrate and how their choices can best align with children’s social and cultural experiences (Papadakis, Kalogiannakis & Zaranis, 2019).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Preschool Education: Is education that focuses on educating children from the ages of infancy until six years old.

Early Childhood Education: Is a broad term used to describe any type of educational program that serves children in their preschool years, before they are old enough to enter kindergarten.

Programming: Lines of code that are written in a certain language that demands a logic of reasoning from the developers.

Educational Robotics: Is an interdisciplinary learning environment based on the use of robots and electronic components to enhance the development of skills and competencies in students.

Teacher Perceptions: The thoughts or mental images which teachers have about their professional activities and their students, which are shaped by their background knowledge and life experiences and influence their professional behavior.

Preservice Teachers: Students enrolled in an initial educator preparation program.

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