Robotics in Early Childhood Education: Developing a Framework for Classroom Activities

Robotics in Early Childhood Education: Developing a Framework for Classroom Activities

Anastasia Kalogiannidou (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece), Georgia Natsiou (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece) and Melpomeni Tsitouridou (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6717-3.ch016
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Robotics is a very promising tool and a highly innovative field that brings a new dimension in educational settings. Educational robotics is recognized as a valuable means for cultivating 21st-century skills, having the potential to promote learning, cognitive and social development, and preschoolers' engagement with STEM topics in a playful way. Nevertheless, the absence of a well-articulated pedagogy of teaching robotics and with robotics impacts the clarity of its guidelines, scope, and objectives. There is a lack of frameworks for teaching robotics in early childhood education, especially one that includes objectives and teaching methods in a balanced way. This is the challenge that the current chapter aims to address: to outline the initial orientations of a framework that includes educational robotics objectives and appropriate teaching methods for early childhood education.
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In the last decades the educational community has shown a strong interest in robotics. Since 1967, when LOGO computer programming language was introduced, robotics has gradually been incorporated in K-12 Education, especially in STEM and interdisciplinary approaches. The launch of Lego MINDSTORMS, stemming from the collaboration of MIT Media Lab and Lego Group, is considered a milestone that influenced the market’s interest in robotics and the “maker movement” (Anwards et al., 2019). Nowadays, a wide spectrum of educational robotics material for young children is available (Stanton et al., 2017), with programming languages to move beyond screen-based environments, acquiring tangible characteristics (Kaifai & Burke, 2014) that embrace the developmental needs of young children. Young tinkerers have access to 1) programming toys: with electronic physical enacting agents that are programmed through tangible manipulatives, e.g., Coding Express, 2) programming board games: digital enacting agents that are programmed with tangible manipulatives, e.g., Kids First Coding & Robotics, 3) programming concept practicing applications/websites, e.g., ScratchJr, and 4) Robotic kits: electronic physical enacting agents that are not connected with separate tangible manipulatives or are programmed through digital screen, e.g. LEGO WeDo 2.0 (Ching et al., 2018).

Robotics kits are an increasingly popular tool for young children’s familiarization with computer science in a hands-on way, experimenting with sensors and motors (Bers, 2008; Bers & Sullivan, 2019). Also known as robotics manipulatives, robotics kits are defined as tools with which students can create, build, and/or program, enhancing technological fluency (Bers, 2008; Fernaeus et al., 2010). There are various kits, each one supports different activities and learning styles (Rusk et al., 2008), like pre-constructed robotic systems (e.g., Bee-bot) and systems that provide children the opportunity to engage in the construction of the robot (e.g., Lego Education WeDo 2.0) (Misirli & Komis, 2014).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Constructionism: A learning theory, which states that knowledge is socially constructed and best achieved through the act of making. Defines learning as an active construction of something outside of one's head, that tangible and shareable.

Constructivism: A theory of learning with both philosophy and psychology roots. Emphasizes the active role of learners in constructing their own knowledge and meaning from their experiences.

Robotics Literacy: Encompasses the knowledge, skills, and attitudes specific to robotics a person is expected to demonstrate. The content of robotics literacy shares common grounds with STEM fields and needs to be further elaborated.

Robotics: Is a field of technology dedicated to the design, construction, operation and use of robots. It aims at assisting humans in their everyday life activities through intelligent agents.

Educational Robotics: Is a field aiming to improve learning experience through pedagogically appropriate methods that make use of robots. It includes the design, application, evaluation, and validation of pedagogical activities in which robots are integrated.

Embodiment: Concerns bodily experiences, activities one learns with his/her body, that drive to a deeper understanding of abstract ideas and concepts.

Human Robotics Interaction (HRI): Is a subfield of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) that takes users’ needs into account during the design of robotic platforms, and focuses on improving their experience.

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