Programmable toys and free play in early childhood classrooms
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© 2017, Australian Council for Computers in Education. All rights reserved. This paper reports on a study that investigated the ways that young children interact with discrete programmable digital toys in a free play setting. One intention was to see whether this interaction would address some of the requirements of the Digital Technologies subject in the Australian Curriculum. The study was implemented in two phases in consecutive years involving teachers and students from two early childhood classes. Researchers worked with the teachers to provide the children with opportunities to use two types of digital toys - the Sphero and the Beebot. The children were observed as they interacted with these toys and their interactions analysed using a checklist of behaviours. It was found that without some explicit scaffolding the children did not tend to demonstrate any actions that could be associated with an understanding of ‘algorithms’. However, they did demonstrate motivation, engagement, and increased proficiency and recognition with using the hardware and software of these digital systems.
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