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Approaching Social Robots Through Playfulness and Doing-It-Yourself: Children in Action


This work reports on a pilot study devoted to investigate whether the direct experience of building a robot by children enables them to obtain a more effective and complex learning of what a robot is. The study consists of an experiment carried out with eighteen pupils of the same age, attending a secondary school in Udine (Italy). The experiment was aimed to allow children to build up a simple robot, and in this experience, the children were supported by two researchers and by one of their teachers. The results show that this concrete experience activated in the children affective, emotional, physical, and social dimensions and brought them to the development of a more sophisticate conceptualization of robots. The learning by doing approach was quite effective also in strengthening the children’s social behavior and improving their mechanical knowledge and manual abilities.

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    The conference “RIE (Robotics and Innovations in Education)” held in Modena (Italy) on November 18–19, 2013, tried to map and discuss all the initiatives carried out in Italy about robotics and educational innovations.

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    Among these projects it is worth mentioning: (a) the CLOHE project devoted to enabling primary classroom teachers and their students to build moving toys (called Automata) in order to widen their experience and learning competencies (; (b) the PIE Institute project consisting of a network of educators exploiting practical educational activities to teach science, art, and technology (; (c) the High-Low tech group that developed the LilyPad platform (; (d) the Code Club project whose aim was to teach children, aged 10–11 years old, to assemble and program their own operating system and hardware (


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Correspondence to Leopoldina Fortunati.

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Fortunati, L., Esposito, A., Ferrin, G. et al. Approaching Social Robots Through Playfulness and Doing-It-Yourself: Children in Action. Cogn Comput 6, 789–801 (2014).

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  • Social robots
  • Children
  • Learning by doing
  • Educational construction
  • Do-it-yourself
  • DIY