In another move towards STEM education, a world first trial by an Australian education researcher has claimed that even 4-year-olds can learn the basics of robots and programming.
In the years to come it will be critical for kids to learn how to code, and the demand for them in medicine, manufacturing and agriculture is expected to increase. And with the increase in AI, it becomes imperative that future generations know and understand how to work with them.
“It is really important that children have these skills early in life but we need to make it fun for them and think about how they can be creative,” said Christina Chalmers from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia, who is a leading authority on the application of robotics in classrooms.
Integration of such initiative have already started with NAO robots being added to two schools in South Australia as part of a world-first study, and Queensland implementing compulsory coding and robotics in primary and early secondary schools late last year.
“Coding is basically telling a computer what you want it to do through step-by-step commands,” Chalmers said.
“Robotics activities are very effective because they are hands-on and students get immediate feedback on whether their robot and program works or not.”
From the reseach gathered, 4 year olds will be bale to pick up these skills far faster than their elders.
“Preliminary findings from a current study have shown even pre-school students have gone beyond simply playing games with a NAO robot,” said Chalmers.
“They’ve drawn pictures of their ‘robot’ classmate and been able to explain how the robot received its coded messages wirelessly. This involved quite complex conceptual thinking by 4-year-olds as to how the robot’s behaviour was being controlled,” she continued.
There has been evidence to suggest that these tasks, although difficult, will be helpful in the long run even if they fail in the beginning.
“It arouses students’ curiosity in a way that fosters problem-solving… They are allowed and even at times encouraged to fail in order to work out what went wrong and learn from their failures and share and develop their ideas with other students.” Chalmers said.
“Research tells us that if kids don’t form positive attitudes towards science, maths, and technology early in life, they can find it difficult to engage later on,”Chalmers said.
Now it becomes a matter of implementing these stratgies so that children are able to code better, to love better.