Klaus Thestrup

Supporting creativity and collaboration: Considerations for the development of a technologically enhanced toolkit for kindergartens

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Collaboration and creativity are 21st century skills that should be supported throughout schooling. In the SEEDS project we are in the process of developing a technologically enhanced toolkit for kindergartners to support creativity and collaboration in a kindergarten setting. Drawing on first ideas, prototypes, and initial findings from developing the toolkit we consider our next steps in designing the toolkit. By presenting opportunities to experiment with a range of simple, recognisable everyday materials, both digital and non-digital, that the kindergartens have at hand, we seek to find ways to open up to creativity and support collaborative skills through the medium of story-telling.
Author Keywords
digital fabrication; toolkit; kindergarten; storytelling; kindergarten teacher; preschool; creativity; collaboration.
ACM Classification Keywords
H.5.m. Information interfaces and presentation (e.g., HCI): Miscellaneous.
In the 21st century educational institutions are challenged to find ways to educate young people with the skills and competences that are required for future employment. As knowledge is accessible to all today, education systems are challenged to re-think the way they approach pedagogy and learning outcomes. The skills and competences are hard to measure and perhaps even harder to transfer. Therefore we seek to focus on process to stimulate the development of these competences. Therefore, we propose to trial ways of working with material, digital technology and resources combined that stimulate and support creative ways of working and collaboration between children and with adults.
In Kindergarten, concrete materials have been long been used to let children explore (abstract) concepts by manipulating, playing and crafting since early pedagogues such as Maria Montessori [1] and Friedrich Fröbel [2] introduced them. Further, based on work from Papert [3] the practitioners and researchers seek to develop digitally enhanced hands-on materials that add value to the classical materials and gifts [e.g. 4,5,6]. However, valuable toolkits in this sense like littleBits [7], the Dot Creativity Kit [8] or LEGO WeDo [9] do not address kindergartners. Due to the young age and the varying cognitive and motor capabilities of the target group it is challenging to develop an age appropriate toolkit that combines technology and concrete materials for children age 3 to 6. A first attempt for that age group was made with the Curious Construction Kit, which will be explored [10] further.
In the project Social Entrepreneurship Empowering Development in preSchools (SEEDS) we seek to bring together preschool teachers from four European countries and develop a pedagogy for kindergartens to support an entrepreneurial mindset [11] which includes the four C’s – Collaboration, Creativity, Communication and Critical Thinking [12]. The pedagogy developed through this project will emerge from the different ways that kindergartens work with a range of digital material and combine these with other resources available to them (Resnick?). One output the project is to develop and explore a technologically enhanced toolkit that supports creativity and collaboration with a focus on the everyday practices of kindergartens and links to narratives and story-telling as a way to include all children. Each kindergarten has a focus on learning activities that aim to support shared values. Children and adults are regarded as co-designers and prosumers in this project.
Each institution in each country has decided on a particular approach that will support the focus on the values they have articulated. In this paper, we describe one situation from one kindergarten to illustrate the activities as they unfold.
In order to co-design with children we worked with a focus group of six children in total. We started with three boys and three girls aged from three to six years. The kindergarten teacher selected the participants for the activity with considering equality on gender and age distribution. During the five working sessions the children, one researcher and one student helper were present.
The goal of the five sessions was for each child to invent one imaginary creature and one story in which they all take part. In the first session, the children each invented one creature. The teacher kept asking open questions about what they look like, what they could do, and about any special characteristics. The children discussed and came up with ideas. At the end of the session, each child drew a picture of his or her creature. In the second session, the children were asked to construct their creatures using everyday materials using their drawings as a starting point. At this point they were reminded of the ideas they had come up with as they developed their creature. This was done to reinforce the childrens suggestions and to further develop these into a story together. In the third session, technology in the form of LEDs, Motors and a sound module were presented to the children. The children explored and investigated what the technology could do before deciding on how they would incorporate these into their own creatures. For the fourth meeting we presented the children with an existing robot “Roberta” - an Ozobot [13] The introduction of Roberta was seen as a way to connect the children’s creatures. Roberta wanted to be friends with them and learn who they were. So now the creatures were together in one ‘world’ with Roberta. In the last session, the children reflected on the whole process through first reading the story that the children created together and then putting photographs into the children’s personal portfolios.
For this first phase, we prepared examples of how to connect LEDs and coin batteries using foam and pompoms. The children could embed them into the creatures easily and the imprecise shape was chosen in order to not affect the children’s ideas. The same foam might also have been used for the motor or the sound module, which is not as obvious and easy as with the LEDs.
During the co-design sessions the children invented four creatures: two butterflies, a talking horse and a monster. One three-year-old boy shifted his creature from firstly being a monster to simply being filled cups and to finally being illuminated sailing ships. The children constructed their creatures from everyday materials such as packaging, empty toilet rolls, etc. (see figure 1). Figure 1. An imaginary horse created by a three year old girl
All children chose to include the LEDs to light up their creatures, mostly as eyes. In the fourth session, the children created one world, which was drawn on a big paper so that every child had one spot for his or her creature. The children drew lines for the Ozobot so that it was able travel through the whole world by following the lines. In their story-telling the children included Roberta as one of the figures and even began to communicate as the physical robot took small pieces of paper from one of their creatures to another and passed messages.
When we asked the children in the fifth session, what they liked most about this project, two of them said the lights and two of them liked the world that we created the most. This part needs more development to find out what goes on in the children’s thinking about how they imagine and develop ideas to a physical object and what part the digital plays in that development.
We have developed and explored components that can be added to everyday materials for activities that support creativity and collaboration in kindergarten. So far, we have tested how a collection of resource materials, small items that contain LEDs, motors and sound modules and an autonomous robot can be integrated into a storytelling scenario.
We have seen that the children at this young age enjoyed working with this very first version of a toolkit and that it added new incentives to their everyday activity in kindergarten. They were all able to embed the LEDs in their creatures by using foam or pompoms. None of them used the motor and sound modules. We believe that there is a way to enable the children to let those become part of their creatures as well, but that it needs to be offered in another way. Hence, we will try to co-design small 3D-printed or laser-cut items that children can easily embed into their creatures. Nevertheless, we have seen that offering the materials in non-predefined shapes allows children to make the technology become part of their artifact (or even change what the artifact itself is) and not only as an add-on. So, we will need to keep the designs of the items as neutral as possible.
Further, we have observed that the structure given by this scenario supports creativity (inventing a story and creatures and making them) and collaboration (bringing them together in one story and creating one world and showing it to Roberta). So far, we will use this activity sequence as a initial framework to support creativity and collaboration using technology in a kindergarten setting. A complete evaluation regarding he pedagogical part of the project will be conducted later in the project as the different institutions relate their ways of working with their scenarios.
However, we have also encountered difficulties. While the children were able to embed the foam- or pompom-LEDs into their artifact, they were not able to create those all alone because a sharp cutter is needed which is not suitable for children at that age. Here, future work will be conducted to guarantee that children take an active role in their learning process.
For the upcoming developments it seems quite challenging to do the dance between predefined and easy to use shapes versus non predefined shapes that become part of the creature or story more easily. Aspects to keep in mind are i) the cognitive and motor abilities of the kindergartners which vary considerably from the age of three to six and ii) whether to choose black boxes or open concepts for the small items iii) the appropriateness regarding gender, culture, and special needs as inclusiveness is an essential pedagogical and social element.
Finally, we also have to keep in mind not only to design for and with the children, but also to include the kindergarten teachers, as they are the ones to work with the technology as well.
The project SEEDS is funded by Erasmus+.

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StatusUdgivet - 2019
BegivenhedFablab learn Europe - University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Varighed: 28 maj 201929 maj 2019


KonferenceFablab learn Europe
LokationUniversity of Oulu

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