“Robots can serve as the basis of a powerful problem-solving curriculum that will help young children begin to develop the habit of creative, independent problem solving while introducing them to the key technologies of the Information Age.” But …
… It’s Not About the Robots!
There are many different programmable robots on wheels, which one should you choose?
The Pedagogical Advantages of Programmable Robots
“Whatever I cannot recreate for myself I do not understand.” — Richard Feynmann, Nobel Laureate in Physics
- Early Learning robots should encourage children to work with their hands and to move around their environment.
“The hand is the instrument of the intellect.” — Dr. Maria Montessori
As With All Well-designed Manipulatives:
- Early Learning robots provide a medium through which to explore the world.
- Early Learning robots allow for meaningful play (closely related to creativity): play that reveals to children the secrets of their environment.
- Early Learning robots provide a material path to abstraction: i.e., a material, or concrete, way for children to model abstract concepts like length, angle, or negative vs. positive numbers.
Unlike Inert, Passive, Show-&-Tell Manipulatives:
(And many electronic games, toys, and computer “educational” software)
- Early Learning robots can be multi-use: an exploration, modeling, & problem solving tool.
- Early Learning robots are not limited to rigid or prescribed (pre-programmed) uses or behaviors: children can explore their environment creatively, testing and refining their concepts of it as they go.
- Early Learning robots allow children to think creatively about the solutions to a large variety of inherently interesting problems, and to easily and immediately test their possible solutions.
- Early Learning robots are transparent, not mysterious like the “black boxes” (software games driven by invisible code, electronic devices with invisible pre-programmed circuits) that children are handed to play with or “learn” from but which they do not understand. Roamer’s behaviors are the direct result of the children’s actions.
- Children should be able to identify with their Early Learning robot as a lovable character (Early Learning robots should be cute!). This allows them to visualize movement in space and possible solutions to Project-Challenges through the robots’ “eyes”— a powerful problem solving technique: put yourself in your robot’s “shoes” and walk through he problem.
- This dramatic aspect of Early Learning robots makes possible another powerful learning tool: the idea of the robot as the children’s student. Children learn by “teaching” their robot to solve Project Challenges.
- This way of anthropomorphizing the Early Learning robot adds drama and suspense to every work period: Will your robot learn his/her task in time?!
- As a “character” Early Learning robots are non-judgmental. They never humiliate but are at the same time absolutely fair: if you give them a bad solution to a Project-Challenge, they will always fail to do the work. This non-threatening persona makes children more willing to risk failure in their attempts to find a creative solution to Project-Challenges.
- Early Learning robots should have pens that leave a trace with each attempt; so that children can correct their work (practicing the “Scientific Method” (Trial & Error): Make a Guess=Write a Program, Test-Your Guess= Run Your Program; Analyze your Data & Make a New Guess= Study your Pen Trace & De-bug Your Program)
- Early Learning robots should allow children to turn math into art, using the same pens and multiple colored markers to help them create something beautiful with math (“senseless” beauty!).
- Early Learning robot should be extendable: using accessories and platforms children can use their robot to explore such topics as:
- Simple machines: levers, gears, wheels, pulleys, etc.
- Sensors: Light & Color & Sound & Pressure
- Electricity, electronics, etc.
- Early Learning robots should be adaptable to exploration of many areas of the curriculum:
- Science (simple machines, electricity, electronics),
- Math (geometry, arithmetic),
- Geography (map reading),
- Music & Drama (robots with built-in musical scales can “sing” together or alone and be choreographed to dance; for plays children can costume and ornament their Early Learning robots),
- Language arts (children can write their own books of programming solutions to Project-Challenges: e.g. “Tricks We Taught Our Robot“); they can be given books to read on Robotics.
- Computers (programming: uploading and downloading Roamer procedures, modeling Early Learning robot Project-Challenges on a Computer Screen),
- Art and Design (with Roamer’s pen accessories children can teach him to draw or design houses) etc.
- Early Learning robots should be sophisticated and powerful, yet, with their simplified keyboards and easy maintenance, they provide an ideal entry path (for both children and elementary school teachers) to the worlds of computers, robotics, and information technology.
In sum, the Early Learning robots can serve as the basis of a powerful problem solving curriculum that will help young children begin to develop the habit of creative, independent problem solving while introducing them to the key technologies of the modern Information Age.