Teachers struggle to teach in a way that captures kids’ attention. Young children have a naturally short attention span, but all children, regardless of age, seem to have a shorter attention span than they did twenty years ago before technology changed the way their brains process information. As such, classroom learning has also had to evolve to help children grasp concepts and remain engaged in subjects.
Over the last two decades, the increased use of computers and tablets, particularly in the classroom for instruction, has been met with some debate. Unintended negative effects on children’s attention spans as well as their cognitive function has become evident with screen-based learning. Research shows that screen time effectively captures children’s attention; however, it can have negative effects on young children’s physical, cognitive, and emotional development. Examples of negative physical effects are related to the sedentary nature of looking at a computer or tablet screen.
In young children, physical movement is important to both muscle and brain development. In addition, excessive screen time can result in a decrease in creative thinking and vocabulary development because the child has fewer opportunities for verbal interactions with other people. Children learn language best by talking to others. Passive language instruction on a screen is not processed as effectively by a child’s brain. Excessive screen time can also cause emotional problems including feelings of isolation and depression.
Balancing Technology and Classroom Curricula
Although computers and tablets have many educational benefits, their use must be balanced with other teaching methods that incorporate hands-on activities, verbal discussions, and problem-solving opportunities. So how can a teacher make a lesson engaging without relying on computers to capture children’s attention?
The best lessons are interactive and allow the students to be both creative and collaborative. One resource that can develop higher-order thinking skills, bridge the gap between technology and real-world learning, and greatly increase student engagement is to teach coding to students using actual robots that are developmentally appropriate for elementary age students, such as KIBO. Unlike many coding resources, this screen-free coding robot was created specifically for children ages 4-7. KIBO doesn’t require monitors or tablets, Children interact with the robot to create stories through coding that are as limitless as a child’s education. KIBO comes to life whatever coding sequence a young student puts together.
Critical Thinking & Independent Learning
Why are variety and open-ended tasks important to student learning?
- When students choose from a variety of choices, they are making decisions. Decision-making is a higher-order thinking skill that helps develop the prefrontal cortex of a young child’s brain.
- The coding process requires the child to place commands in a sequence for the coding of the robot. Sequencing is a critical pre-reading skill.
- Understanding what happens first, next, and after an event helps children develop skills in prediction and understanding cause and effect.
Higher-order thinking skills are a natural consequence of allowing children to learn how to code.
While some coding programs use graphic images and electronic screens, one study compared a robotic coding program presented in two formats- online, and hands-on. Although both formats taught students how to code, the students preferred and were more engaged with the tangible, hands-on robotic system. They reported that they enjoyed it more. Enjoyment and engagement may have been due to actively engaging the senses of touch in addition to the visual component of the activity. The more senses a young child uses to learn, the more likely it is that the concept will be transferred into long term memory.
The science behind learning indicates that when multiple senses are activated, multiple parts of the brain are engaged. Listening activates one part of the brain. Observation activates a different part. Children who watch, listen, discuss, touch, and talk about a concept are more likely to understand it and learn from the activity. The more senses are engaged, the less likely a child will be distracted.
In an age of heightened distraction due to the bombardment of information and media available online, providing hands-on robotic coding activities such as KIBO can help teachers keep students engaged while teaching high quality STEM concepts effectively.
Meet KIBO, a Screen-free Educational STEAM Robot
There are coding toys available designed to approach a precise issue: How do we teach young people about coding fundamentals while giving them a fertile environment for other aspects of their growth? Enter KIBO, a screen-less way to engage and learn. Using programmable wooden building blocks that can be placed and manipulated to create sequences that will direct a robot’s movements, it addresses a growing understanding of technology’s impact on childhood development and allowing us to rethink the amount of time children interface with computers.
KIBO, the learning robot designed specifically for kids, offers an inviting, engaging platform for young children to start their journey into creating with code in a fun and creative way. KIBO’s block-based coding language gives children control over the robot’s movements, sounds, and sensors, allowing them to express their imaginations with code. The KIBO curriculum for educators also teaches children to tell stories, create characters, and explore the world around them through code. KIBO is the number one choice in screen-free coding for kids – trusted by more parents and schools to introduce today’s youth to the wonders of technology and robotics.