Dancing robots: integrating art, music, and robotics in Singapore’s early childhood centers

Abstract

In recent years, Singapore has increased its national emphasis on technology and engineering in early childhood education. Their newest initiative, the Playmaker Programme, has focused on teaching robotics and coding in preschool settings. Robotics offers a playful and collaborative way for children to engage with foundational technology and engineering concepts during their formative early childhood years. This study looks at a sample of preschool children (N = 98) from five early childhood centers in Singapore who completed a 7-week STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) KIBO robotics curriculum in their classrooms called, “Dances from Around the World.” KIBO is a newly developed robotics kit that teaches both engineering and programming. KIBO’s actions are programmed using tangible programming blocks—no screen-time required. Children’s knowledge of programming concepts were assessed upon completion of the curriculum using the Solve-Its assessment. Results indicate that children were highly successful at mastering foundational programming concepts. Additionally, teachers were successful at promoting a collaborative and creative environment, but less successful at finding ways to engage with the greater school community through robotics. This research study was part of a large country-wide initiative to increase the use of developmentally appropriate engineering tools in early childhood settings. Implications for the design of technology, curriculum, and other resources are addressed.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6

References

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2016). Media and young minds. Pediatrics, 138(5). doi:10.1542/peds.2016-2591.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Bers, M. U. (2008). Blocks, robots and computers: Learning about technology in early childhood. New York: Teacher’s College Press.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Bers, M. U. (2012). Designing digital experiences for positive youth development: From playpen to playground. Cary, NC: Oxford.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Bers, M., Ponte, I., Juelich, K., Viera, A., & Schenker, J. (2002). Teachers as designers: Integrating robotics in early childhood education. Information Technology in Childhood Education AACE, 2002(1), 123–145.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Bers, M. U., Seddighin, S., & Sullivan, A. (2013). Ready for robotics: Bringing together the T and E of STEM in early childhood teacher education. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 21(3), 355–377.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Berson, I. R., & Berson, M. J. (Eds.). (2010). High-tech tots: Childhood in a digital world. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Brosterman, N. (1997). Inventing kindergarten. New York: H.N. Abrams.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Buckleitner, W. (2009). What should a preschooler know about technology? Early Childhood Today. www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3751484.

  9. Calvert, S. L., Rideout, V. J., Woolard, J. L., Barr, R. F., & Strouse, G. A. (2005). Age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic patterns in early computer use: A national survey. American Behavioral Scientist, 48(5), 590–607.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Cejka, E., Rogers, C., & Portsmore, M. (2006). Kindergarten robotics: Using robotics to motivate math, science, and engineering literacy in elementary school. International Journal of Engineering Education, 22(4), 711–722.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Chambers, J. (2015). Inside Singapore’s plans for robots in pre-schools. GovInsider. Retrieved from: https://govinsider.asia/smart-gov/exclusive-singapore-puts-robots-in-pre-schools/.

  12. Chiong, C., & Shuler, C. (2010). Learning: Is there an app for that? Investigations of young children’s usage and learning with mobile devices and apps. New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. http://pbskids.org/read/files/cooney_learning_apps.pdf.

  13. Clements, D. H., & Gullo, D. F. (1984). Effects of computer programming on young children’s cognition. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76(6), 1051–1058. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.76.6.1051.

  14. Clements, D. H., & Meredith, J. S. (1992). Research on logo: Effects and efficacy. Retrieved from: http://el.media.mit.edu/logo-foundation/pubs/papers/research_logo.html.

  15. Common Sense Media. (2013). Zero to eight: Children’s media use in American 2013. San Francisco: Common Sense Media.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Cordes, C., & Miller, E. (2000). Fool’s gold: A critical look at computers in childhood. College Park, MD: Alliance for Childhood.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Couse, L. J., & Chen, D. W. (2010). A tablet computer for young children? Exploring its viability for early childhood education. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 43(1), 75–98.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Cristia, J., Ibarraran, P., Cueto, S., Santiago, A., & Severin, E. (2012). Technology and child development: Evidence from the one laptop per child program IDB working paper no. IDB-WP-304. Retrived from SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2032444.

  19. Cunha, F., & Heckman, J. (2007). The technology of skill formation. American Economic Review, 97(2), 31–47.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Digital News Asia. (2015). IDA launches $1.5m pilot to roll out tech toys for preschoolers. Retrieved from: https://www.digitalnewsasia.com/digital-economy/ida-launches-pilot-to-roll-out-tech-toys-for-preschoolers.

  21. Hamner, E., & Cross, J. (2013). Arts & Bots: Techniques for distributing a STEAM robotics program through K-12 classrooms. In Proceedings of the third IEEE integrated STEM education conference, Princeton, NJ, USA.

  22. Highfield, K., Mulligan, J., & Hedberg, J. (2008). Early mathematics learning through exploration with programmable toys. In Proceedings of the joint meeting of PME 32 and PME-NA (pp. 169–176).

  23. IDA Singapore. (2015). IDA supports preschool centres with technology-enabled toys to build creativity and confidence in learning. Retrieved from: https://www.ida.gov.sg/About-Us/Newsroom/Media-Releases/2015/IDA-supports-preschool-centres-with-technology-enabled-toys-to-build-creativity-and-confidence-in-learning.

  24. Jones, N. (2016). Digital technology to be added to education curriculum. New Zealand Herald. Retrieved from: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11668961.

  25. Kazakoff, E. R., Sullivan, A., & Bers, M. U. (2013). The effect of a classroom-based intensive robotics and programming workshop on sequencing ability in early childhood. Early Childhood Education Journal, 41(4), 245–255.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Kerawalla, L., & Crook, C. (2002). Children’s computer use at home and at school: Context and continuity. British Educational Research Journal, 28(6), 751–771.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Lee, K., Sullivan, A., & Bers, M. U. (2013). Collaboration by design: Using robotics to foster social interaction in Kindergarten. Computers in the Schools, 30(3), 271–281.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Lisenbee, P. (2009). Whiteboards and websites: Digital tools for the early childhood curriculum. Young Children, 64(6), 92–95.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Madill, H., Campbell, R. G., Cullen, D. M., Armour, M. A., Einsiedel, A. A., Ciccocioppo, A. L., et al. (2007). Developing career commitment in STEM-related fields: Myth versus reality. In R. J. Burke, M. C. Mattis, & E. Elgar (Eds.), Women and minorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics: Upping the numbers (pp. 210–244). Northhampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Maguth, B. (2012). In defense of the social studies: Social studies programs in STEM education. Social Studies Research and Practice, 7(2), 84.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Markert, L. R. (1996). Gender related to success in science and technology. The Journal of Technology Studies, 22(2), 21–29.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. (2016). 2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework. Retrieved from: http://www.doe.mass.edu/frameworks/scitech/2016-04.pdf.

  33. Metz, S. S. (2007). Attracting the engineering of 2020 today. In R. Burke & M. Mattis (Eds.), Women and minorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics: Upping the numbers (pp. 184–209). Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Lonigan, C. J., & Shanahan, T. (2009). Developing early literacy: Report of the national early literacy panel. Executive summary. A scientific synthesis of early literacy development and implications for intervention. National Institute for Literacy.

  35. Oppenheimer, T. (2003). The flickering mind: Saving education from the false promise of technology. New York: Random House.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Papert, S. (1993). The children’s machine: Rethinking school in the age of the computer. New York: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Perlman, R. (1976). Using computer technology to provide a creative learning environment for preschool children. Retrieved from: http://hdl.handle.net/1721.1/5784.

  38. Portelance, D. J., Strawhacker, A., & Bers, M. U. (2015). Constructing the ScratchJr programming language in the early childhood classroom. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 1–16. doi:10.1007/s10798-015-9325-0.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Pretz, K. (2014). Computer science classes for kids becoming mandatory. The Institute: The IEEE News Source.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Resnick, M. (2006). Computer as paintbrush: Technology, play, and the creative society. In D. Singer, R. Golikoff & K. Hirsh-Pasek (Eds.), Play = Learning: How play motivates and enhances children's cognitive and social-emotional growth. Oxford University Press.

  41. Resnick, M., Martin, F., Berg, R., Borovoy, R., Colella, V., Kramer, K., et al. (1998). Digital manipulatives. In Proceedings of the CHI ‘98 conference, Los Angeles, April 1998.

  42. Rideout, V. J., Lauricella, A., & Wartella, E. (2011). Children, media, and race: Media use among White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian American Children. Evanston, IL: Center on Media and Human Development, School of Communication, Northwestern University. http://web5.soc.northwestern.edu/cmhd/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/SOCconfReportSingleFinal-1.pdf.

  43. Robelen, E. W. (2011). STEAM: Experts make case for adding arts to STEM. Education Week, 31(13), 8.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Siu, K., & Lam, M. (2003). Technology education in Hong Kong: International implications for implementing the “Eight Cs” in the early childhood curriculum. Early Childhood Education Journal, 31(2), 143–150.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Steele, C. M. (1997). A threat in the air: How stereotypes shape intellectual identity and performance. American Psychologist, 52, 613–629.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Strawhacker, A. L., & Bers, M. U. (2015). “I want my robot to look for food”: Comparing children’s programming comprehension using tangible, graphical, and hybrid user interfaces. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 25(3), 293–319.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Strawhacker, A., Sullivan, A., & Bers, M. U. (2013). TUI, GUI, HUI: Is a bimodal interface truly worth the sum of its parts? In Proceedings from IDC ‘13: The 12th international conference on interaction design and children. New York, NY: ACM.

  48. Sullivan, A., & Bers, M. U. (2015). Robotics in the early childhood classroom: Learning outcomes from an 8-week robotics curriculum in pre-kindergarten through second grade. International Journal of Technology and Design Education. doi:10.1007/s10798-015-9304-5.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Sullivan, A., Kazakoff, E. R., & Bers, M. U. (2013). The wheels on the bot go round and round: Robotics curriculum in pre-kindergarten. Journal of Information Technology Education: Innovations in Practice, 12, 203–219.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Trevallion, D. (2014). Connecting to Australia’s first digital technology curriculum. The Conversation. Retrieved from: http://theconversation.com/connecting-to-australias-first-digital-technology-curriculum-23507.

  51. U.K. Department for Education. (2013). The National Curriculum in England: Framework document. London: The Stationery Office.

    Google Scholar 

  52. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology. (2010). Transforming American education: Learning powered by technology. Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://www.ed.gov/technology/netp-2010.

  53. White House, Office of the Press Secretary. (2016). FACT SHEET: President Obama announces computer science for all initiative [Press release]. Retrieved fromhttps://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/01/30/fact-sheet-president-obama-announces-computer-science-all-initiative-0.

  54. Yakman, G. (2008). STEAM education: An overview of creating a model of integrative education. In Pupils’ attitudes towards technology (PATT-19) conference: Research on technology, innovation, design & engineering teaching, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

Download references

Acknowledgements

This work was made possible by Singapore’s Infocomm Development Authority and through the U.S. National Science Foundation Grant (DRL: 1118897). We would also like to acknowledge and thank the teachers and students from the participating schools in Singapore.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Amanda Sullivan.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Sullivan, A., Bers, M.U. Dancing robots: integrating art, music, and robotics in Singapore’s early childhood centers. Int J Technol Des Educ 28, 325–346 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10798-017-9397-0

Download citation

Keywords

  • Robotics
  • Early childhood
  • STEAM
  • Programming