By Michael Hilkemeijer
The benefits of technology on childhood development has been widely recognised by many and includes:
- Improved visual-spatial development;
- Improved problem solving and decision-making;
- Helping children learn in the classroom;
- Improved multitasking and;
- Understanding the use of technology as a tool.
In this article, we will examine just one example of technology in early childhood education – bee bot – and discuss the best way as to how to use bee bots in preschool classrooms such as this.
While there are many good bee bot activities that we will list later, in my view you can add further benefits of its to the teacher. For example, in any of the technology activities for kindergarten that you may have it is also possible to develop ICT capability.
This involves employing sound instructional decisions that will ensure that many of these benefits of using digital technology in early childhood education are achieved.
Bee bots, of course, is just one example of early childhood technology but you can use it for other such as Dot robots or any other DAP programmable toys etc.
Strategies For Using Bee Bots
The following teaching methods in early childhood education I implemented myself a number of years ago while I was teaching a Year 1 class at a state school. What is interesting to know about them is that they were derived from studies conducted at schools and centres that had a high level of ICT capability and I wanted to understand its effectiveness in the classroom more.
Before I continue any further, you will need to note that ICT capability is not just ICT techniques. So when we are referring to how to use technology in preschool classrooms like programmable toys like bee bots I am not just looking at whether or not they can push a button.
In early childhood education, dispositions in learning are significant and when you are integrating technology in preschool activities you will need to consider in your planning the current level of ICT capability of each individual child.
You will also need to understand that a child who is ICT capable has the disposition to construct ICT solutions to problem situations that are relevant and appropriate to the context and are based on the knowledge of the opportunities and limitations of the technology available.
“ICT capability, therefore, involves an interaction between technical facts and process, strategic knowledge, meta-cognitive self-knowledge and affect aspects of mind including self-confidence and a disposition to use technology.” (Kennewell, Parkinson, & Tanner, 2000, p. 38)
Other teaching approaches in early childhood education includes:
Determine the current level of ICT capability prior to the lesson
This supports planning as you can take this into consideration for the following intentional moments that you may have.
You could set a pre-lesson to allow young children to play and experiment with bee bots. By doing this, you could monitor what they children know already and this aids in learning progression.
Additionally, by determining current capabilities in bee bots you will be a more responsive educator and will you to make informed decisions in your curriculum planning.
Stimulate and structure learning
Past studies have indicated a good way of achieving this is applying these successful strategies such as setting clear objectives as to what you the children to achieve with the bee bot, structure the activity and have high expectations of the children.
It also suggests that you follow the following sequence effectively:
- Whole class briefing on the context and activity;
- A detailed explanation to each group when they are ready to work on the activity;
- A careful choice on pairs to work with the bee bot in turn;
- A review of the key points with group afterwards.
Before any bee bot lesson you would need to clarify your expectations with the group or whole class beforehand and focus their attention on what they are going to do.
Bee bots can be integrated into meaningful contexts such as literacy and numeracy so it is important that any learning activities are introduced by explanation and questioning of the children. Conclude with further questioning and a clear summary of what has been learned.
Teach the use of bee bots effectively
Bee bots like other programmable robot is an ICT resource that children can use as a tool for learning. Therefore, you need to plan and seek to develop all components of ICT capability in the following ways:
For routines with bee bots, if they don’t meet the important ICT techniques sufficiently, they will need to be given focused practiced tasks;
For each ICT technique that children use for the bee bot, give each of the ICT techniques a name or effect that would communicate and help children think about the action and its effect;
Processes are a series of ICT techniques that a child might use to achieve an outcome. It is important that wherever possible, discuss with children what it is they are doing at the process level rather than just identifying the next ICT technique.
Monitor and intervene appropriately when needed
If children struggle with any routines with the bee bots then extra practice is needed. Practice in specifically designed activities should be supplemented by opportunities to apply the ICT techniques concerned to worthwhile tasks which involve other areas of the curriculum.
For children needing support when using ICT techniques give them the minimum amount of support. They can often work out the next ICT technique themselves. You should then withdraw the support as soon as possible.
As children work on a number of ICT techniques in a series (processes) ensure that the minimum amount of support is given. Each activity should NOT be set out step-by-step and the support should be withdrawn as soon as possible. Structure the bee bot activity by questioning, prompting and showing if necessary.
Assess the capabilities in bee bot use
For every ICT technique that you demonstrate to a whole class or group you need to determine if a child could perform it after seeing the demonstration. A checklist of ICT techniques would be needed to keep track of their progress.
Routines performed with bee bots would need to be assessed similarly to ICT techniques. For example, you would need to know and be able to describe, how ICT techniques were being executed. Was a child hesitant, steady or fluent in instructing the bee bot to do something? This can be carried through your observation.
At times, children may misunderstand or demonstrate some misconceptions about the use of bee bots. These are the things that you would want to know and record. Children’s conceptual understanding can also be assessed by the use of effective questioning and discussion.
Processes can only be judged by whether they can make decisions. Additionally, higher order skills are assessed by the extent to which scaffolding is necessary. In terms of bee bots or the use of any robotics in early childhood education then you need to ensure that children have the opportunity to make decisions such which way a bee bot should go. For example, which ICT technique to use in order for the bee bot to get to a pre-determined destination.
Integrating technology in early childhood education should never be about just using bee bots, for example, as a add on to a learning activity. They should always be about enhancing the subject learning and developing ICT capability in technology activities for kindergarten and preschool classrooms.
All the above teaching approaches in early childhood education can be used to support the learning of meaningful contexts such as the activities that will follow. These have been derived from other sources throughout the web to give you the opportunity to enable young children to benefit from ICT in early childhood education. Try these bee-bot activities for early years.
Further examples of ICT in ECE
The use of bee bots as an early childhood technology so in this section, I will look further at what is technology in early childhood education so that you will gain the expertise you need in order to meet your professional learning goals and enable young children to develop ICT capability.
It is important to note that you don’t need to use digital technology in early childhood education in order to achieve this.
First, it is significant to understand why is technology important in early childhood education? To summarise some main points that I have outlined earlier:
- Young children are beginning their education with varying degrees of technology literacy due to the increasing presence of ICT in their lives and of those people around them.
- Countries such as Australia, for example, have embedded technology literacy learning outcomes in both the EYLF and the Australian Curriculum.
- Young children need to find out and identify the uses of technology in their everyday lives.
- Lastly, because most are familiar with technology use when they enter your learning environment it is your responsibility as an early childhood teacher to build on their ‘technology literacy’ or ICT capability.
There are various types of resources that are DATEC:
- Real items of digital technology that work such as digital cameras;
- Real items of digital technology that don’t work;
- Toy technologies that stimulate the working of the real technology;
- Toy technologies such as wooden washing machines;
- Technologies that the children have made.
So as you have seen, there many reasons and many ways to overcome key issues to do with integrating digital technology in early childhood education. You can achieve this through intentional teaching strategies or through digital play.
Last year, I had the privilege of being the ICT teacher at a P-6 primary school. The school is in a low socio-economic area of town and not many students would have a computer at home.
I started in the second week of the term and was handed the school’s bee bot backpack containing information on various different approaches to using them.
Over the past few years of studying the best practices of teaching student ICT capability, I decided that this was a great opportunity to ‘practice what I preach’. In this article, I will reflect on this and share my experiences and advice with you so that you too can maximise student capabilities in your classroom.
Coding is a great way for students to learn how to be innovative and bee bots is fantastic in giving them a good start to this. It has applications throughout the entire curriculum and there are now more advanced versions of them for older students.
Whilst I did not disregard the bag of information I had at my disposal the methodology that I implemented proved to be effective in determining initial student capabilities.
My aim was to determine this first to see what they know and then once they had proven that they can operate bee bots sufficiently then we were to move onto the other activities in the bag.
Later, I realised just how good decision this was as – meaning no disrespect to their former teacher – they had done bee bot work in the previous term but had not really developed good capabilities.
To begin, it was always best to ascertain if the students could program a bee bot to make simple shapes and my choice was a square and a rectangle. More complex shapes were then added onto their list as they progressed.
What you are about to learn are my teaching strategies for primary school bee bot:
Now the question is “did I give them the instructions to make a shape?” The answer to this would be no. Giving students instructions would not help them develop their higher order thinking skills.
In order to get the process started, I always began the lesson in a whole-class discussion. It was best then to point out the different directional buttons and demonstrate what I would do.
For example, I would think out loud for the students to hear my thought processes and say “I am going press this button to move forward” and “I am going to press this button to turn right”.
By doing this, I hope that the students would be able to follow my example. During this as well, I would also probe into their thinking and ask them the why, when, how, where questions.
My next step was to divide the students into groups of manageable sizes (this approach does work best when you have adult help). Students were instructed to practice making squares or the shapes they were working on at the time. Research has indicated that Whole-class or group discussions is the best way to teach ICT capability. The process was then carried out in front of the smaller groups.
Assessing Student Capabilities
The process of teaching ICT capability in a whole-class or group discussion also serves as a great way to assess student capabilities. After I had demonstrated both my actions and thought process to the students it was then necessary to ask them to do the same. It was essential that they were able to indicate to me that they were following my example.
To assess students, I needed to know if they were able to perform a technique after having seen a whole-class or group demonstration. Initially, they needed some support in the form of a reminder.
However, if the student continued to need this kind of support, then my assessment would be that he or she was not making adequate progress and I would then try to find out why. For this purpose, I created a checklist (see below).
Routine (how techniques were executed)
I can create a square
I can create a rectangle
Table 1. Example of Checklist used for Bee Bot
The teaching of ICT techniques is something that most teachers would be familiar with but to develop ICT capable students, they need to go beyond just learning a particular technique or skill.
As it can be seen in the checklist above, being able to assess techniques was a relatively easy thing to do. I used this approach because it best suited my needs. However, depending on what you are assessing you can use a coding system of your own choice.
In relation to the techniques, it was necessary to determine how they were carried out. For example, was the student hesitant, steady, or fluent in creating the shape? What this enabled me to do was to plan opportunities for the student to move from hesitant to fluent in the technique. Along the way I take note of any mistakes or misconceptions the student would show.
The development of student ICT capability cannot be achieved without the use of higher order thinking skills by the students. It was, therefore, significant that I judge the decisions the students would make in order to create the finished product, and in this case it was simple shapes. In addition, I assessed their higher order thinking skills by the extent to which scaffolding was necessary.
For example, I wanted to know if a student was able to make decisions about which button to press to move forward, turn right or left and how many times would the button be pressed.
Throughout the ICT lesson, it was important that I also determine other things such as the students’ attitude to ICT, whether they were confident, or if they dominated the group activities, or were they reticent?
In conclusion, I found the above teaching strategies for primary school to be very efficient and effective in determining their ICT capability (their ability to use bee bots).
Most students did make good progress with the older students doing better than the lower junior classes. It should also be noted that it took some students a number of times to move on.
As a suggestion for you to use, it might be better to include other areas in the checklist to use if you have time for further teaching. For example, include a section to record the dates students moved on from being steady to fluent.
So this was my approach and you may have used something similar yourself. The development of student ICT capability is a crucial part of primary education and teachers in this sector need to integrate technology like bee bots in an efficient way in order to fulfill the curriculum requirements. Feel free to let me your thoughts on this article.
Ideas for Activities and Strategies
As the use of programmable toys such as the bee bot continues to prove to be a great ICT tool for classroom teaching, bee bot activities in primary school are highly sort after. So I have gone trolling the Internet for you to gather some ideas for those of you who want to save time doing so.
You can use the above ICT teaching methods that I have outlined above to capitalise on its use in each of the below bee bot activities.
Check them out and ensure that you they help achieve the learning outcomes for the students that you want them to achieve. Click on each heading to find out more.
You will find a list of more than 10 bee bot activities on this site and this continues for a second page.
If you teach the Australian Curriculum DT you will find this very useful. It will detail the summary and make the link to the Achievement Standard it addresses. The page will also have a variation of standards to follow so that you can aim high.
This too has curriculum links attached to the bee bot activities. You will also find information about the Learning Map and Outcomes, Learning Construction and Learning Input. Read up! This one will have you hooked!
There are two main curriculum links here to Computing and Maths. It is a PDF that you can download so that you can take it away to your staff desk to plan more effectively.
This appears to have multiple downloads for you to choose from.
Twinkl has a number of resources for bee bots such as mats and other user resources.
This is another PDF download for you that comes with information such as planning, bee bot activities, making resources and so on.
I hope that these bee bot activities are what you need. If so, let me know how they go and don’t forget to employ the ICT teaching strategies I discussed earlier with you.