This blog post is part of a six-part series about supporting children’s Positive Technological Development through hybrid/distanced learning.
This is a continuation of part one of this blog post.
Guest Contribution: The Development of Virtues in Early Childhood Education through Robotics, by Dr. Ziva Hassenfeld
The Development of Virtues in Early Childhood Education through Robotics research project, funded by the Templeton Foundation, sought to use robotics education to develop young children as citizens and human beings. In this guest contribution, Dr. Ziva Hassenfeld describes her experience participating in the research on that project.
This research focused on three character traits: Curiosity is the capacity to encounter the world through questions and wonder. Creativity is the capacity to see potential and possibility in what others would discard. Generosity is the capacity to see what others need and a willingness to help them. Children have opportunities to practice these three traits in their personal projects and school work, social interactions with friends and adults, and communal responsibilities in their classroom or family.
Currently, the growing push for STEM education highlights the need for increasing technical knowledge and skills, but it usually ignores the crucial need to cultivate character virtues alongside the technical aspects. Tangible robotics can create meaningful and authentic opportunities for all three of these character traits.
The research involved professional development about a virtues-based robotics curriculum for Kindergarten educators from a range of religious and cultural schools contexts. Following this training, teachers implemented the curriculum in their own classrooms, and culminated the unit with an open house for families and friends to celebrate their children’s hard work. Finally, teachers participated in a virtual conference and children’s final projects were posted on a website hosted by the DevTech Research Group.
So what did we learn?
We learned so much in the course of this project. Let me just share one story, and introduce you to a little girl named Amy, whose work with KIBO allowed her to explore her creativity. Amy was often uninterested and not paying attention when the whole class was on the rug, listening to her teacher, Ms. K, read a story or discuss a new topic. When the kids were learning about sequencing, for example, Ms. K started reading There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Simms Taback. While the rest of the class shrieked and giggled each time the old lady swallowed something more ridiculous than before, Amy stayed silent and showed little interest in the story, playing instead with her headband. When Ms. K asked questions, Amy’s classmates raised their hands enthusiastically, but Amy sat silently looking out the window. Finally, it was time for everyone to meet KIBO. Suddenly, Amy began raising her hand to answer questions, too! KIBO had successfully garnered Amy’s undivided attention. When Ms. K began to hand out KIBOs, Amy exclaimed to her partner, “let’s build our robot!” She experimented with rolling KIBO back and forth across the table, appearing to be contemplating its moving parts. Amy’s creativity was often squandered in traditional lesson settings. When KIBO came out, however, this unconventional mode of learning triggered Amy’s creativity. The change of structure and form allowed Amy’s creative impulse to come to life.
This research demonstrated exciting connections for integrated curriculum in early childhood education to support children’s generosity, creativity, and curiosity.
Now that you’ve got some inspiration for helping kids cultivate their virtues and character, let’s put it into practice! Read on for suggestions and activities that can support children to make positive conduct choices by using tech to engage with real-world issues of health and community safety!
Activities for Fostering Choices of Conduct From Home:
Community Jobs In Our Virtual Class – Each week, assign one child the job of choosing the welcome song on Zoom, show-and-tell with something from their home (have students submit a flipgrid video in advance for the teacher to show during the synchronous Zoom class), a mute button leader who will help their peers remember to mute their microphones.
Activities Fostering Choices of Conduct At School:
Community Jobs In Our Physical Class – One great way to foster generosity in your classroom is to give children jobs related to technology (friend in charge of reminding us our safe-bodies rules with devices, friend who makes sure they are plugged in, friend who asks if anyone needs help turning their device on). How does this look different during COVID? Friend who passes out disinfectant wipes for screens, and pumps sanitizer on hands after, reminds everyone to use masks, don’t touch face, cough into arm, wash hands frequently.
Community Helpers and COVID – Just like adults, children are experiencing the challenges of living through the global pandemic. Instead of feeling helpless, practicing our choices of conduct can offer children a way to feel like they are informed and doing their part to help their family, school, or community cope with COVID-related changes. Some ideas to help children learn about positive conduct choices around COVID include:
Introduce students to the idea of essential community workers using photos and videos. You can invite members of your community (teachers, school counselors, other essential workers) to share about their essential work experience, or find child-appropriate interviews or read-alouds on YouTube Kids, like this video from That TVOkids Show and this YouTube playlist from PBS Kids.
Invite children to create window posters to spread awareness about one community action they learned about. Children can create their own Flipgrid videos, window posters, emails, and more to ask questions, share thanks, and get to know their community’s essential workers!
You may want to guide children or edit videos before posting, to avoid sharing videos with privacy issues or inappropriate content.
After students have explored community responses to COVID, you can host a class play or performance to share what they’ve learned with others in their community!
Use puppets, props, or dress-up outfits to teach about ways to stay safe during covid
Host a COVID-themed Readers Theater
*As a reminder, it is important to respect the privacy concerns of individual students. Before sharing pictures and videos of students with your community, make sure that you have consent from their guardian.
Family Tip: After researching COVID-19 and Germs on PebbleGo as a family, have a discussion around what can be done in your house to keep your family safe!
How are you engaging with your students in your classroom this year?
Bers, M. U. (2020). Coding as a playground: Programming and computational thinking in the early childhood classroom. Routledge.
Duska, R., & Whelan, M. (1975). Moral development: A guide to Piaget and Kohlberg.
Hardy, S. A., & Carlo, G. (2011). Moral identity: What is it, how does it develop, and is it linked to moral action?. Child Development Perspectives, 5(3), 212-218.
About the Authors
Angie Kalthoff is the Product Manager for Curriculum and Instruction at Capstone. Over her career, she has been an English Language (EL) teacher, Technology Integrationist, Program Manager, and University Instructor. She has an M. Ed in Teaching and Learning. Connect with Angie on Twitter: @mrskalthoff and visit her website: bit.ly/angiekalthoff.
Dr. Amanda Strawhacker is the Associate Director of the Early Childhood Technology (ECT) Graduate Certificate Program at Tufts University’s Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development. She holds a Master’s and Ph.D. in Child Study and Human Development, which she earned while designing and researching EdTech like ScratchJr and the KIBO Robot at the DevTech Research Group, and was a speaker with TEDxYouth@BeaconStreet. Connect with Amanda on Twitter: @ALStrawhacker and visit her website: amandastrawhacker.com
Ziva R. Hassenfeld is the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Assistant Professor in Jewish Education at Brandeis University. In addition to her research, Ziva is a passionate educator. She has taught Hebrew Bible in a variety of settings, including at JCDS, Gann Academy, Genesis/BIMA at Brandeis, Silicon Valley Beit Midrash, Stanford Hillel, Congregation Beth Jacobs, and Congregation Emek Beracha. She is a Wexner Fellow and Davidson Scholar, Class 25.