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What is robotics for children?
St. George's British International School

Robotics is not only a key skill for the education pupils need for their future, but it develops multiple skills such as logical thinking and creativity.

Most pupils in any school are likely to work in professions that do not yet exist today. This widespread assertion has been used by many experts, including José María Peiró, Professor of Social and Organisational Psychology at the University of Valencia. In an interview for Agencia EFE, the professor warned that artificial intelligence and other forms of digitalisation are rapidly transforming many jobs, and that this trend will continue in the future.

Robotics, or the discipline of robot design and programming, may seem like a complex subject for schoolchildren. However, more and more schools, such as St. George's British International School, are including it in their curriculum from an early age. Even in primary school, many children learn basic robotics concepts, and this technology becomes a fundamental subject at secondary level. What is the purpose of introducing robotics for children and what benefits can we gain from it?

Seymour Papert, pioneer of educational robotics

The computer scientist Seymour Papert, creator of the Logo programming language, suggested as early as the 1960s that children should use computers as tools for learning and for enhancing creativity, innovation and computational thinking. In fact, he claimed that the simplest personal computer in existence is a paper and a pencil.

In his laboratory, many children had for the first time the opportunity to use a primitive computer to write, graph, and represent geometric and mathematical concepts. The Logo programming language was conceived, researched and created there, as well as the first computer-embedded toys for children such as Lego-Logo. Papert's research provided valuable insights into how technology can be applied to education.


Constructions, an educational classic

Building games are one of the most popular games used by educators to promote the cognitive development of young children. Building games improve fine motor skills, but they also develop spatial orientation and encourage children to think of different ways of arranging objects to create different shapes. This beneficial manipulative work in childhood is combined with programming in robotics.


Programming develops logical thinking

Programming, on the other hand, consists of writing commands in the form of algorithms, a language that the machine can understand. In itself, it is very similar to logic, a skill that is studied in philosophy faculties in order to teach people to think. Thus, learning simple programming languages reinforces students' formal hypothetical-deductive thinking. Children explore with their robots scenarios that represent the space where logical solutions must be found, through the application of programming languages.


A basic skill for the professions of the future

In the future, programming will be as basic a task as surfing the Internet or handling any user-level software, such as apps or Office programmes, is today. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to think that these computer skills should be introduced in educational centres and taught as another skill, on a par with reading comprehension or mathematical skills.


Robotics, a support for all types of learning

Combining robotics with other subjects can make knowledge acquisition more effective. In early 2021, researchers at the University of Twente published the findings of a comparative study of two primary school classrooms. The first was learning in the conventional way and the second with the use of robots. In the end, they concluded that children were better able to explain what they were studying when learning alongside a robot. According to Frances Wijnen, one of the ELAN researchers involved: "The results led us to conclude that social robots have the potential to support children's learning in a new and positive way.

Ultimately, as with any technology, robotics is not only a key skill for the education students need for their future, but it develops multiple skills such as logical thinking and creativity. Moreover, it is a fun and attractive tool for the new generations when it comes to acquiring any kind of knowledge.

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