A spellbound robot to teach words: educational robotics in the infant stage


In the educational sciences, there have been increasing attempts to interconnect the disciplines with the so-called 21st century skills: collaboration skills, creativity, critical thinking and communication. In this context, educational robotics is revealed as a propitious means to devise learning experiences where the contents of any curricular area are applied.

How can the learning of lexical relationships be connected with the development of 21st century skills?

Relationships between words

Our research started from the idea of ​​connecting the possibility of expanding the vocabulary of boys and girls in the last year of kindergarten (5 years old) using a robot. The main objective was to improve the lexical capacity of the students (that is, the understanding of words and their semantic relationship with each other), but without seeking rote knowledge. We seek that students develop the ability to relate meanings.

Our learning proposal was developed in a public early childhood education center in the province of Valencia. The first step was to determine the lexical knowledge from which it was based; For this, the 5-year-old students completed a previous test where they indicated the related meanings between different images, where some belonged to the same semantic field and others did not. Only 56% of the results were correct.

A haunted robot

To carry out the learning and research experience in the classroom, a tapestry with different images was displayed and the students were explained that they had to help a robot find the elements related to the images on the cards, since a witch had put a spell on it. and couldn’t find anything.

We chose a small educational robot, in one piece, with a low weight (1.84 kg) and a programming limited to linear spatial movements of 15 cm with the possibility of 45 degree turns.

We arranged students into random groups of three and asked them to come to a consensus and provide an explanation of the relationship before marking the correct answer.

The interactions of each group were recorded and analyzed according to the TEPI ( Toy Effects on Play Instrument ) scale, which allowed the identification of cooperative interaction behaviors.

Argue and agree

Thus, one student from the group was in charge of choosing the card with an image, and, once the entire group had seen it, they would look at the tapestry to determine which object was most related to the meaning of the image.

But, in order to program the robot, previously each group of three had to argue what relationships were maintained between the meanings. The images presented offered more than one possible lexical relationship (for example, for the image “furniture” a directly related image was presented as “wardrobe”; another related, but not correct, as “television”, and another unrelated as “cat”. ), so they had to agree on a group response.

Another member of the group was in charge of explaining it, and if the answer was correct, then the third student in the group programmed the robot with the help of his classmates. These roles (arguing, explaining and programming) were exchanged at each game turn, so that all the students put the different skills into practice.

Programming and handling

Undoubtedly, the most fun part for the students consisted of “programming” the robot: once the lexical relationships were established, they then had to establish the route that the robot should follow (spatiality) and program the sequence of movements (laterality) in the robot. front panel of the robot.

In this way, the students transform the abstract thought of lexical relation into a concrete and manipulative reality directed by linguistic reasoning.

Content and skills

The percentage of correct answers reached 75% in the post-exercise test. In addition, unrelated wrong answers were reduced, representing only 6%, while in the previous test they had reached 25%. That is, the students learned lexical relationships between words and improved their vocabulary.

In addition, they developed communication and socialization skills. During the test, it was recorded how each student constructed their discourse to manage knowledge, how they argued to defend her position, how they collaborated in the construction of joint knowledge, as well as the degree of involvement in the activity.

On the other hand, the adults did not intervene in the students’ interactions, they only helped in the programming part of the robot when doubts arose.

Experimentation and interaction

Our research shows that robotics does not belong only to the area of ​​mathematics and technology, but can be applied in areas such as language teaching.

Also, that experimentation and interaction with peers is an effective method for learning, and that activities where students have to solve a challenge pose cooperative learning opportunities for any educational stage.

Finally, robotics allows students to manipulate, play with the meanings of words and not just learn inferentially.

In short, educational robotics is not only presented as one of the didactic tools that arouse the most interest in students, but also constitutes a suitable vehicle for connecting the learning of content (in this case, linguistic) with the development of skills or skills.

Author Bios: Veronica Moreno Campos is a PhD Assistant Professor in the area of ​​Didactics of Language and Literature at Universitat Jaume I and Francisco J. Rodríguez Munoz is Professor of Language Didactics at the University of Almería