Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Domo arigato kindergarten roboto

There never seems to be any shortage of complaints that younger and younger kids are gaining access to more and more technology. However, the articles for this week push that giving access to relatively complex technology to very young children (starting around age 4) and used in directed and scaffolded ways can be highly productive in early education learning. In all 3 instances, young children were able to successfully utilize the technology used to better understand abstract ideas from the life of bees to physical manipulation through visual programming. I like that Bers et al. point out that what they are doing is different that turning the computer into a TV set or use video games that do not invite creativity.

Instead, the children in all articles are sort of participating in an AR/PS type of simulation. Since the children are concretely grounded in the physical world, they are using robotic manipulatives or digital representations of the real world to enact experiments that would not be feasible in the real world so that young children could participate in them. To me, this resembles very closely the notions of AR/PS activities that were discussed last week (and in my previous blog post). If you take a look at my drawing it includes my first 2 models and integrates them into my third. So from the original model the emphasis is on the educational technology itself. It depicts educational technology needing to be easily accessible/usable, secure, remixable, and shareable. Model number 2 depicts what happens in using AR/PS activities. It show the real world on one side and the alternate world on the other side; a wormhole of technology connects them (symbolizing that technology is at least partially used to bridge the real and alternate world). Above the technology wormhole is either Kang or Kodos beaming down students' prior technology use as an effect on the technology wormhole. The third model incorporates these 2 models as weights on a barbell that an individual is trying to balance as they walk across a drooping tightrope between cliffs. The idea here is that there is a balance that needs to be struck between the technology itself and the use of it as an AR/PS environment for learning. In some cases this balance is going to require scaffolding as a means of achieving the balance. This was particularly evident in the Bers et al. article as there were several instances where the goal of using the technology became a bit distant as the students using the technology were finding it hard to use due to a disconnect between the technology, their knowledge of the technology, and that the topic being taught in the lesson was generally difficult for young students. Similarly in the Montemayor article the use of StoryRoom involved some scaffolding with the students before they were able to successfully operate the digital manupulatives. The takeaway for me was that technology needs to have reared its complex and confusing head sometime prior to the actual "launch date" that it will be used in the classroom as the crux of a lesson. Otherwise students are trying to learn a high level technology skill AND a highly abstract concept (or multiple ones) all at the same time which for anyone can lead to a little frustration and failure. Granted failure can be a positive thing in the use of AR/PS environments. But what I would like to see is the technology be introduced in advance of the lesson and see if the students come up with the connection between the technology and the learning of an abstract concept rather than having the technology and the abstract concept slammed together into a single tsunami of new information and expected learning.


  1. What's most interesting to me in this model is that it appears to be the learner who's faced with balancing the two approaches to technology integration in schools. I wonder: from a constructionist point of view, learners are given room to do, to engage with powerful ideas, but never without guidance from teacher-facilitators. It seems that, at the very least, a teacher would be standing next to the learner, helping her/him to balance these separate approaches to instruction. What do you think?

  2. I agree with your last point, that its a good idea to give the children a preview of the technology so they have some familiarity, some idea of what's in store, and not completely surprised the same day the technology is launched in their class for a full scale project.
    When I first saw this model, i thought of justice scales, and wondered why is that pad lock heavier than that alien, but then i realized it's not heaviness that's weighing it down, rather its the kid's attempt to remain balanced admist all this technology and their goals that's causing him to not hold the two steady. well done for introducing visual metaphors into your model (mine are just boring lists, and now I must rethink their creativity and visual appeal),