What is a robot?
Use of robots in education is increasingly becoming more important each day.
A robot is a machine that may gather information about the environment and use that information and any pre-programmed instructions to complete tasks. Robots are controlled using coding(computer programming) to outline specific instructions and ranges of actions. These tasks could be a very specific set of movements, like cutting a piece of wood to a certain length, or extremely complex instructions that allow the robot to actually learn how to responds in new situations.
There are robots that can gather a variety of information about what is happening around them and then react to that information in fun and educational ways. These robots can be specifically programmed to complete tasks using one app or can be remotely controlled by using another app.
Robotics in early childhood.
Why do we need robots in young children’s education today?
Early childhood is a wonderful time to spark a child’s interest in coding, robotics, and engineering. Young children are curious about the world around them, and today that world very much revolves around technology. But how best to promote positive, creative, and educational engagement with technology? Integrating robotics and coding into early childhood education is easier than you may think, with hands-on, screen-free robotic tools.
We are surrounded by technology. Smartphones, video games, automatic doors and much more. But in the early years, children learn very little about how these things work.
Integrating robotics in early childhood education helps the child develop skills in the important STEM(science, technology, engineering, math) fields. For children in the PRE-K2 age, robotics can introduce them to these important concepts, thereby encouraging them to be excited about further exploration in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
As robotics and computers become increasingly prevalent in student’s lives, understanding programming and programming concepts are becoming very important for student’s success. Robots are a fun, easy, and effective way to learn about computer programming. Programming a robot has tangible, observable effects. Testing the robot’s code can be done in a hands-on way with visual results.
Coding as a playground.
Coding is becoming as fundamental to work, education, and culture, as literacy was in earlier centuries. Not every child needs to become a computer programmer, but coding gives children the tools to create and participate in a culture, society, and working world structured by computers.
Research shows that young children can learn concepts of programming and engineering at a very early age. This is possible when children are given tools that are developmentally appropriate, that encourage open-ended play and that allow the integration of technical skills with expressive arts, math, literacy, and cultural explorations.
Young children learn by doing. They learn best by playing with physical objects: by making things, testing things. To learn programming and engineering, they need materials designed in the spirit of traditional learning in early childhood (physical, as opposed to on-screen). Children engage in playful learning, cultivate their curiosity for the technical world, explore problem-solving, and understanding other concepts like cause and effect, programming, sensors, and motors. Play is important in early childhood.
Make it more than “just coding”
Robots bring computer science to life.
How do you solve a problem in a structured way? With computational thinking, you model the problem, break it down into smaller sequential steps, invent solutions, and test them out.
When children plan a sequence of actions for certain educational robots, they assemble their program as a line of wooden command blocks. They scan the blocks with the robot’s scanner, one by one, in sequence. When the robot acts out the sequence, children can follow along by referring to the blocks they have scanned.
Young children are naturally curious about the world around them. Today, the world includes technology. As adults, whether educators or parents, we have the responsibility to ensure that children’s exploration of technology is age-appropriate, safe, and creative. The best technology experiences for children are technology playgrounds, filled with creativity, exploration, and social engagement.
Educational theorists have long recognized that young children think and learn the best when moving, playing, building, and engaging with concrete objects. Traditional coding is often screen-based and abstract. But with robotics, children’s code affects the physical world, the robot moves and reacts based on the instructions the children give it.
Working with robotics and coding, especially when facilitated in a classroom, means engaging with the engineering design process. This process encourages children to identify the problem, imagine and plan a solution, build and test their creation, and share their work with peers.
Unlike screen coding, robots let children really see their programs working. Programmable robots provide children with instant, tangible feedback by allowing them to test their work in the real world as they go.
This direct feedback helps children discover and fix any issues as things happen. The combination of robots with coding teaches children critical skills, such as problem-solving and debugging, in an engaging, fun, and effective way.
Building logic skills
Computer coding helps teach students how to use and explain their logic. Coding involves making choices: about the best command to use, the best order of events, or the best structure of the code itself. Students can learn to reason through these decisions and be able to defend their choices when explaining their code to others.
Coding also involves teaching logic to the computer. For example: if an action is taken, then a reaction occurs. Students learn how to connect events logically while constructing “if statements” and “while loops.
A Better Learning Experience for All Learning Styles.
Robotics caters to all different learning styles.
Visual learners benefit from seeing the robot moving and matching the robot’s actions to their code. Tactile learners are far more connected to something they can literally get their hands on than just a computer screen. Active learners and children who struggle with focus benefit from the interaction a robot provide over just staring at a monitor.
Programmable robots help children connect with the power of coding.
Robots are already all around us.
The world is full of robots. From self-driving cars to articulated manufacturing arms to the Mars Rover, robots of all types are becoming more and more a part of our world. Providing children with a basic understanding of robotics is an important part of developing their technological literacy. Using programmable robots as a learning tool for STEM(Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) educational activities provides children with a meaningful connection between what they are learning and the world around them.
Preparing your child for the future.
We are surrounded by computers, smartphones, wearables, video games, GPS- there is a computer in almost everything. Research shows that the future will contain even more digital devices and that an increasing proportion of jobs will be in the tech and tech-related organizations.
Having a strong foundation in coding and technology will be crucial for success in tomorrow’s workforce. Programmable robots empower children with the skill to make computers work for them, opening up a future where they are not only consumers of technology, but the next generation of technology creators.
As technology becomes an ever more important part of our lives, an increasing number of jobs are available that involves writing code and using robotics.
Many jobs in different fields are made easier by using code. For example, scientists who understand statistical programming can quickly calculate results, and engineers who use computer-generated virtual models can view their designs without having to build them.
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