Big Robots for Little Kids: Investigating the Role of Scale in Early Childhood Robotics Kits
Abstract: Couch fort and refrigerator box constructions are staples of early childhood play in American culture. Can this this large-scale fantasy type of play be leveraged to facilitate computational thinking? This thesis looks at the ways Kindergarteners (age 5-6) use two variations of the KIBO robotics platform in their play and learning. The first is the standard KIBO kit developed at the DevT... read moreech research group at Tufts University and commercialized by Kinderlab robotics. The second, created by the author, is 100 times bigger and can be ridden by children and adults. Specifically this study addresses the research question "How are children's experiences with big-KIBO different from KIBO?" To do so this thesis presents two analytical tools that were assembled conceptually from literature and the authors experiences with KIBO, examined using the data collected in this study, refined, and used as frameworks for understanding the data. They are a developmental model of programming with KIBO and an operationalization of Bers's (2018) powerful ideas of computational thinking when using KIBO. Vignettes from the data are presented and analyzed using these frameworks. Content and structural play themes are extracted from additional vignettes with each robot. In this study there are no clear differences in the ways children engage in computational thinking or develop their ability to program. There appear to be differences in the ways children play with the robots. Suggesting that a larger robot offers new opportunities and pathways for children to engage in computational thinking tasks. This study makes a case for the importance of thinking developmentally about computational thinking. Connections to literature and theory as well as suggestions for future work, both for children and designers, are discussed.
Thesis (M.A.)--Tufts University, 2017.
Submitted to the Dept. of Child Study and Human Development.
Advisor: Marina Bers.
Committee: George Scarlett, and Brian Gravel.
Keyword: Educational technology.read less