Robot Programming in Early Childhood and Primary Education

A special issue of Education Sciences (ISSN 2227-7102). This special issue belongs to the section "Early Childhood Education".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 June 2024 | Viewed by 22006

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of Information and Electronic Engineering, International Hellenic University (I.H.U.), 57001 Nea Moudania, Greece
Interests: tangible programming; tangible user interfaces; educational robotics; augmented reality in education
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

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Assistant Guest Editor

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Assistant Guest Editor
Department of Educational and Social Policy, LIRES lab, University of Macedonia, 54636 Thessaloniki, Greece
Interests: robotics in education; socially assistive robotics; ICT in continuing education; robots' design; creativity in education; human–robot interaction

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Assistant Guest Editor
Department of Philosophy and Education, Aristotle University of Thesaloniki, 54124 Thessalonik, Greece
Interests: research methodology and applied statistics in social and behavioral sciences; science education; ICT; phycology; robotics
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Nowadays, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) tools are used in many schools around the globe, covering the educational needs of various age groups from pre-school to university. Therefore, we decided to propose this Special Issue focusing on “Robot Programming in Early Childhood and Primary Education”.

This Special Issue aims to present and bring together a collection of papers and reviews worldwide from a range of theoretical perspectives and research on educational robotics, evaluation methods, good practices, and results of robot programming in early childhood and primary education. The Special Issue also welcomes high-quality papers and original contributions on the development and support of robotic programming environments and innovative tools that might enrich the agenda of development and education. Other cross-disciplinary topics where robotics programming has been used to facilitate and promote such environments and tools, such as topics on language, history, science, STEM, critical thinking, mathematics, social skills, and other learning domains, will also be featured.

The Special Issue aims to substantially impact both theory and practice, to enrich the literature, and to serve as a basis for upcoming research and publications. The main focus of the issue is on Early Childhood and Primary Education and will synthesize research, practices, tools, and theory with controversies and new challenges. Thus, this Special Issue will extend current knowledge and support researchers, developers, parents, hobbyists, and professionals from other fields who are willing to join the educational robotics community.

Prof. Dr. Sapounidis Theodosios
Prof. Dr. Michail Kalogiannakis
Prof. Dr. Nikolaos Fachantidis
Prof. Dr. Dimitrios Stamovlasis
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Education Sciences is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • educational robotics
  • robot programming
  • STEM education
  • science and technology

Published Papers (6 papers)

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29 pages, 7944 KiB  
Article
Combined Unplugged and Educational Robotics Training to Promote Computational Thinking and Cognitive Abilities in Preschoolers
by Chiara Montuori, Gabriele Pozzan, Costanza Padova, Lucia Ronconi, Tullio Vardanega and Barbara Arfé
Educ. Sci. 2023, 13(9), 858; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13090858 - 23 Aug 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2118
Abstract
Computational thinking (CT) learning activities are increasingly integrated in early-stage school curricula in several countries. Tools used to teach CT in early school years include unplugged coding—i.e., programming without computing devices—and educational robotics (ER)—i.e., giving instructions to a digitally controlled mechanical robot to [...] Read more.
Computational thinking (CT) learning activities are increasingly integrated in early-stage school curricula in several countries. Tools used to teach CT in early school years include unplugged coding—i.e., programming without computing devices—and educational robotics (ER)—i.e., giving instructions to a digitally controlled mechanical robot to perform specific actions in a physical environment. Past studies have shown that training coding skills through ER enhances first graders’ executive functions (EFs). Little is known, however, about the effects of ER interventions, alone or combined with un-plugged activities, on preschoolers’ CT and EF skills. In a cluster-randomized controlled trial, we assessed whether improvements in preschoolers’ coding skills, following interventions based on combinations of unplugged coding and ER, transfer to plugged (computer-based) coding abilities and to EFs such as planning, response inhibition, and visuo-spatial skills. Forty-seven preschoolers from four class groups, with no prior exposure to coding, were randomly assigned to an experimental (unplugged coding and ER, two classes) or control (standard school activities, two classes) instructional groups. Four coding tasks, one standardized planning task (Tower of London test), one standardized response inhibition task (NEPSY-II inhibition subtest), and one visuo-spatial standardized task (Primary Mental Ability subtest) were used to assess children’s skills at the pretest (before the intervention) and posttest (after the intervention). To measure retention, the same skills were also assessed for 22 children from the experimental group 3 months from the posttest (follow up). The paper discusses the results of this experimental intervention. The results show significant positive effects of the instructional program on children’s computer-based coding skills and cognitive abilities, particularly visuo-spatial skills. Between pretest and posttest, children in the experimental group improved in coding, z = 3.84, p = 0.000, r = 0.87, and in visuo-spatial skills, z = 3.09, p = 0.002, r = 0.69. The waiting list control group showed improvements in coding skills only after the intervention, at the assessment point T3, z = 2.99, p = 0.003, r = 0.71. These findings show that practice with tangible and unplugged coding during the last year of preschool not only significantly improves children’s skills to solve computer-based coding problems (near-transfer effect), but it may also have some far-transfer effects on cognitive functions, such as visuo-spatial skills. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Robot Programming in Early Childhood and Primary Education)
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29 pages, 10969 KiB  
Article
Using Educational Robotics in Pre-Service Teacher Training: Orchestration between an Exploration Guide and Teacher Role
by Ricardo Silva, Fernando Martins, José Cravino, Paulo Martins, Cecília Costa and J. Bernardino Lopes
Educ. Sci. 2023, 13(2), 210; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13020210 - 16 Feb 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2126
Abstract
The proper integration of technology in teaching and learning processes must consider the role of teachers and students, as well as the design of tasks and the context in which they are implemented. Teachers’ perceived self-efficacy significantly influences their willingness to integrate educational [...] Read more.
The proper integration of technology in teaching and learning processes must consider the role of teachers and students, as well as the design of tasks and the context in which they are implemented. Teachers’ perceived self-efficacy significantly influences their willingness to integrate educational robotics (ER) into their practice, so initial teacher training should provide opportunities for teachers to participate in structured activities that integrate ER. In this study, a class of pre-service teachers from an initial teacher training programme were provided with their first contact with an ER platform through the use of a simulator. We present the design process of a student exploration guide and teacher guide, developed over three iterative cycles of implementation, assessment and redesign. The analysis of the data collected allowed for improvements in the design of the tasks, the graphic component of the student exploration guide, and more precise indications for the teacher’s actions. The main contribution of this study is the chain orchestration between the simulator, student exploration guide and teacher guide, which allowed pre-service teachers to solve a set of challenges of increasing complexity, thereby progressively decreasing their difficulties and contributing to an adequate integration of ER in their future teaching practices. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Robot Programming in Early Childhood and Primary Education)
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13 pages, 1801 KiB  
Article
Pursuing Social Justice in Educational Robotics
by Manolis Wallace and Vassilis Poulopoulos
Educ. Sci. 2022, 12(8), 565; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci12080565 - 19 Aug 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2043
Abstract
In educational systems that make their first attempt to incorporate STEAM concepts in their teaching, educational robotics is typically the place to start; robotics kits are purchased, and a small group of pupils is typically selected to develop a project and perhaps to [...] Read more.
In educational systems that make their first attempt to incorporate STEAM concepts in their teaching, educational robotics is typically the place to start; robotics kits are purchased, and a small group of pupils is typically selected to develop a project and perhaps to also take part in some local or national robotics competition. Whilst this can be a very stimulating and rewarding experience for the participating pupils, it does little to introduce STEAM to the rest of the pupils in the school. In this article, we present our work towards a more fair and socially just approach to educational robotics. Compared with the conventional approach to educational robotics, our work introduces the following novelties: (A) shorter educational programs so that equipment can be re-used, (B) out-of-school implementation so that the programs are accessible to pupils from all schools, even from those schools that do not have teachers willing to be involved in STEAM programs and (C) scaling via the training of teachers who then act as multipliers of our action. The approach was applied, before being interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, in a specially developed innovation hub, and the initial results are reported herein. Based on those findings, the potential of our approach to achieve a broader societal impact is highlighted. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Robot Programming in Early Childhood and Primary Education)
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15 pages, 1004 KiB  
Article
The Effect of Robotics-Based Storytelling Activities on Primary School Students’ Computational Thinking
by Karin Tengler, Oliver Kastner-Hauler, Barbara Sabitzer and Zsolt Lavicza
Educ. Sci. 2022, 12(1), 10; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci12010010 - 28 Dec 2021
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 3716
Abstract
Robotics is needed as education keeps up with challenges students are facing in a technological environment. A long-term research project focuses on developing a feasible robotics-based learning environment that enables primary school teachers to introduce computer science education. This paper shows educational robotics [...] Read more.
Robotics is needed as education keeps up with challenges students are facing in a technological environment. A long-term research project focuses on developing a feasible robotics-based learning environment that enables primary school teachers to introduce computer science education. This paper shows educational robotics combining storytelling to promote computational thinking through the method of Tell, Draw, and Code. The study was conducted via pre–post test, using the Beginners Computational Thinking test (BCTt), with third and fourth graders (N = 40) to determine if the integration of robotics-based storytelling activities enhances computational thinking skills. Results show that an increase in computational thinking is evident after the intervention is implemented. The approach of combining stories, texts, and literature with educational robotics seems to be a promising concept to equip students with the required skills. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Robot Programming in Early Childhood and Primary Education)
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11 pages, 2655 KiB  
Article
Fostering Computational Thinking Skills: A Didactic Proposal for Elementary School Grades
by Ricardo Silva, Benjamim Fonseca, Cecília Costa and Fernando Martins
Educ. Sci. 2021, 11(9), 518; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci11090518 - 8 Sep 2021
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 3154
Abstract
There is a growing presence of technology in the daily lives of elementary school students, with a recent exponential rise due to the constraints of remote teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to understand how the education system can contribute to [...] Read more.
There is a growing presence of technology in the daily lives of elementary school students, with a recent exponential rise due to the constraints of remote teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to understand how the education system can contribute to helping students develop the required skills for technological careers, without neglecting its obligation to create conditions that allow them to acquire transversal skills and to enable them to exercise full citizenship. The integration of Educational Robotics and block programming activities in collaborative learning environments promotes the development of computational thinking and other ICT skills, as well as critical thinking, social skills, and problem solving. This paper presents a theoretical proposal of a didactic sequence for the introduction to educational robotics and programming with Scratch Jr. It is composed of three learning scenarios, designed for elementary school teaching. Its main goal is to create conditions that favour the development of computational thinking in a collaborative learning environment. With increasing complexity and degree of difficulty, all the tasks root from a common problem: How can we create an algorithm that programs the robot/sprite to reach a predetermined position? Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Robot Programming in Early Childhood and Primary Education)
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17 pages, 3385 KiB  
Systematic Review
Exploring the Features of Educational Robotics and STEM Research in Primary Education: A Systematic Literature Review
by Sokratis Tselegkaridis and Theodosios Sapounidis
Educ. Sci. 2022, 12(5), 305; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci12050305 - 28 Apr 2022
Cited by 18 | Viewed by 5184
Abstract
STEM education programs with educational robotics are frequently used in formal or informal education, with participants ranging from kindergarten children up to university students. The widespread implementation of these programs in schools and the growing interest of researchers in the field has led [...] Read more.
STEM education programs with educational robotics are frequently used in formal or informal education, with participants ranging from kindergarten children up to university students. The widespread implementation of these programs in schools and the growing interest of researchers in the field has led several authors/researchers to review and summarize the characteristics of STEM research. However, the literature on the features of STEM research in primary education (kindergarten and primary school) is limited. Therefore, this article is a systematic literature review that tries to enrich the STEM agenda by answering the questions: (a) which study designs are commonly used in STEM interventions, (b) what the characteristics of the sample are (number/age of the students), (c) which equipment and user interfaces (tangible/graphical) are used, and (d) what are the characteristics of the studies (duration, intervention objectives, activities) and how studies’ data were recorded. For this review, 36 out of 337 articles were analyzed and emerged from eight databases, three search-keywords and six exclusion criteria. The examination of the reviewed articles showed, inter alia, that non-experimental design is usually used, that in half of the cases written evaluations are used and the sample size is almost equal between girls and boys. Finally, long-term research is restricted, therefore it is not safe to generalize the findings of these studies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Robot Programming in Early Childhood and Primary Education)
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