Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Developing Cognition with Collaborative Robotic Activities

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Developing Cognition with Collaborative Robotic Activities

Article excerpt

Introduction

Cognitive processes are the organizing mental structures which control the subject's interpretation and storage of information (Neisser, 1967). This establishes, among others, the conduct toward stimuli, affecting in a direct way the capability of learning.

According to Piaget (1966), cognitive processes develop as a result of the interaction between stimuli and the organism. In this perspective, where cognitive development goes side by side with biological maturity, the organism is treated as a receptor of stimuli that, by means of these, builds up and matures its cognitive processes. Feuerstein expands on this idea indicating that human beings are cognitively modifiable (Feuerstein, 1970; Feuerstein et. al, 1980). He proposes that the cognitive development of an individual can be enhanced by means of a mediator who selects, organizes, and structures stimuli in order to attain a specific goal. The results of the mediation are the acquisition, by the mediated subject, of appropriate behaviors, sets of knowledge, and operational structures which modify his cognitive structure, thus allowing the enrichment of his cognitive processes.

The aim of peer mediation is to develop mediation teaching styles and cognitive modifiability. Peer mediation is mainly based on Vygotsky's sociocultural and Feuerstein's mediated learning experience theories (Vigotsky, 1930/1978; Feuerstein, 1986). Experimental research has shown that peer mediation improves analogies capabilities (Tzuriel & Shamir, 2007), thrives inventive thinking skills (Sokola et al. 2008), and increases scores in math (Shamir et al. 2006) and Science (Cattle & Howie 2008). There is also work performed in adults, where it has been used with organizational groups that need to be flexible enough to lead initiatives for change (Dawes, 2006).

Feuerstein's Instrumental Enrichment Program (FIE) (Feuerstein et al. 1979) intends to modify the cognitive structure of disadvantaged students, or persons with special educational needs. This program, based on the Mediated Learning Experience (MLE) theory (Feuerstein, 1986), consists of a battery of activities, tests, situations, and problems, constructed to modify the students' cognitive deficiencies. Nevertheless, since the aim of the program is to correct cognitive functions, no specific academic issues are addressed.

In this paper we propose, based on Feuerstein's theories but not on his instruments, an intervention model that addresses school academic issues using technologically assisted small group collaboration. We focus on a dual academic objective; to thrive students' cognitive processes while addressing school curriculum topics. The purpose, therefore, is to balance the students' cognitive differences by means of in-school content-filled classroom activities. Our aim is to make use of peer mediation in a real world setting with a virtual construction of it. We show our approach with high school children working in groups of three, using a robot, and each with a wirelessly interconnected Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). By taking advantage of the robot's autonomy and accurate navigation systems, and the mobility of PDAs, we designed an activity designed to assist the learning of kinematics concepts, graph interpretation, and graph plotting. By means of a controlled experiment, we show how cognitive functions can be enhanced with technologically supported peer mediation.

This paper is structured as follows: Section 2 introduces the cognitive functions addressed; Section 3 illustrates the pedagogical model; Section 4 details the technological system; and section 5 describes the implemented activity and results. Finally, Section 6 presents the conclusions of this work.

Cognitive Functions

Feuerstein' approach works at a metacognitive level. It is grounded in a cognitive map which identifies the cognitive functions in their input, elaboration and output phases (Dawes, 2006). …

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