Magazine article Parenting for High Potential

Coding & Robotics for Young Children? You Bet!

Magazine article Parenting for High Potential

Coding & Robotics for Young Children? You Bet!

Article excerpt

In 2012, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) revised its position statement regarding the appropriate use of technology in early childhood classrooms.1 The increased accessibility of touch screens on tablets and smart phones led to this revision, which moves the conversation from the question of "When shall we introduce children to computers?" to "How shall we introduce children to computers?"

One of the primary takeaways of the new statement is that teachers and parents must be informed and intentional when making decisions about which devices, apps, and games we choose for our children and students. We must consider the context in which the technology is being used. We must ask ourselves, for example, does this technology help children connect, socialize, and communicate-or does it promote solitary play and isolating behaviors?

Along these same lines, Marina Umaschi Bers of Tufts University's DevTech Research Group, in her book Blocks to Robots: Learning with Technology in the Early Childhood Classroom, describes the essential characteristics of a rich learning environment where even very young children experience meaningful engagement with computers and tangible technology devices like robots. In short, children must be active creators and producers, not passive consumers of technology.2 As an extension of traditional learning manipulatives, the use of technology, such as robotics, builds problem-solving and sensory-motor skills.3

Is your child eager to learn about coding and robotics? Here are some ideas and resources for parents and teachers to introduce your child to kid-friendly, computer science activities. These resources meet the guidelines described by NAEYC and Bers regarding the age-appropriate exploration of computer science concepts through engaging, playful, collaborative, and hands-on projects and games.

However, when considering any technology tool or media source, parents should remain the gatekeepers and monitors. Families must make their own decisions, such as how much screen time children are allowed each day.

Apps & Websites

* Daisy the Dinosaur. A a free iPad app that teaches children how to animate a figure (Daisy) by creating a sequence of commands in block programming. The app also introduces coding concepts such as looping and conditions.

* Kodable. This free educational game for tablets teaches coding concepts by challenging players to sequence commands that move a fuzzy creature through a maze. Players work their way up through various levels, encountering increasingly difficult challenges.

* Scratch Jr. An app that makes MIT Scratch animation programming available to young children on touch screens. Available for free on iPads and Android tablets, Scratch Jr. provides an accessible introduction to coding with plenty of options to progress to more varied and complex characters, settings, and stories.

* Code.org. A non-profit organization with a mission to expand access to computer science education. The "Hour of Code" tutorials are engaging and fun. Children as young as 6 can complete the tutorials independently. Bright and motivated preschoolers may enjoy working through the tutorials with adult assistance.

Robot Kits & Toys

* Bee-Bots. Tangible tech tools that teach children to program a robot to navigate a path, avoid obstacles, or act out a story. Available at https://www.bee-bot.us/beebot.html

* Dash & Dot. This pair of interactive robots, can be programmed using an app on a tablet or smartphone. …

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