A small bee with wheels moves across the floor in the children’s room or a small blinking robot follows painted lines on a sheet of paper – this is how playful it can look when children learn how programming works. Because many things are programmed these days, like the timer on the washing machine or the jukebox in the kitchen. Learning robots can help improve the technical understanding of media for children from kindergarten age and are fun at the same time.
In our everyday lives, we often use technical devices without questioning their mechanisms. As soon as we have repaired a broken object ourselves, we also see through its technical processes better. Similarly, with your child and digital media, understanding how to program a robot can enhance their technical understanding of devices. It can also help your child gain a more critical view of media and question how it works. This is conducive to his media competence. In addition to initial programming skills, these robots also train their creativity and logical thinking.
There are different learning robots, which all work similarly: With the help of a few basic commands, your child will develop its own instructions for the mini-robot. Once the robot has understood the instructions, it performs the steps in the specified sequence. We will briefly introduce two robots that function without further technology and with which even younger children can learn how programming works:
The Ozobot is a small learning robot that is controlled with colored lines. On the underside, it has sensors that recognize different colors like small cameras. To make it move, children use colored pencils to draw a roadway on paper and then place it on the line. The Ozobot follows this lane. In addition to simple routes, it can also drive spinning and dancing movements and make sounds. Advanced users (with English knowledge) can create their own programs and effects for the Ozobot using a PC/laptop or tablet and the programming language “OzoBlocky”. Ozobots are suitable for children from elementary school age.
For younger children (from about 4 years), the Bee-Bot is more suitable. “Bee” is English and means “bee” because the robot looks like a bee. It rides on wheels and has 7 directional buttons, such as forward or left. Your child plans the path of the robot. To do this, it stores the desired sequence of movements with the direction keys on the Bee-Bot. The Bee-Bot then executes these movements step by step. It can execute up to 200 commands in succession.
In addition to these models, there are other recommended learning robots, such as Cubatto, Blue-Bot or Dash (with tablet control). Learn more at lehrerweb.wien.
Children love to experiment with these learning robots. The operation is simple and they can quickly control it themselves after trying it out together with an adult and implement their own ideas. With the accessories, or other everyday objects, they can invent their own stories in which the robots move.
Support your child in exploring the learning robot until they understand how it works and can implement it themselves.
The selection of such robots is growing, and the acquisition costs for robots that can actually be used to learn something are at least 100 euros. Therefore, take a close look at the devices and try them out, preferably before buying. Only when you understand everything, you can also explore the robot with your child. Alternatively, you can also borrow a learning robot. Some libraries have acquired small robots, lend them out or offer workshops for children with them. This allows children to explore the robots together and develop ideas as a team. Learning robots are also suitable for kindergarten or school. There are inexpensive class sets for schools and many suggestions online for teachers to use these robots in classroom subjects.