Our daughter's third birthday is fast approaching. As soon as you get pregnant people around you start telling you how quickly time flies the moment a child enters your life. You believe them, but it's only as days, weeks, months and years start passing that you realise its deeper meaning.
Time passes quickly and the world around us changes with each and every ticking of the clock. The world our daughter lives in has nothing to do with the one I lived as a girl. When I turned 13, in my 8th year of the former E.G.B. (Basic General Education, what has now become the second year of the ESO, Compulsory Secondary Education) I was taken for the first time to a computer room. The visits were repeated throughout the whole school year with either my Language or my History teacher, though only once every two weeks. And there were three (sometimes four of us) for each computer. I had to wait two years for my visits to the computer room to be repeated during. Then, for two years I had a weekly visit (sharing the computer with two or three classmates). We played with MS-2 code and during the second year we learnt a little bit of programming in DBase3 (though my classmates didn't think it was "cool" for a girl to take such an interest in programming). It would be still a few years, at 21, for the computer to become part of my daily life -- to such an extent that it would be quite impossible to imagine my life without one now.
My daughter is not yet three and there is an interactive whiteboard in her classroom. Her teachers take her to the computer room so she can learn how to interact with a mouse. At home she's allowed to play with one of my old laptops. When playing, she sometimes starts tapping her fingers against the table and prompted to say what she's doing, she proudly answers she's typing on her keyboard. In short, like many other kids of her generation, she's been surrounded by technology since the moment she was born and she finds it natural.
Needless to say that being familiar with the existence of technology doesn't mean you know how to use it, and least of all, how to use it properly. That's where parents and teachers, as a team, enter the stage. Our task with our so-called "native digital citizens" is to help them understand the use and benefits of technology without abusing it. Moreover, we have to help them interact with a world changing at an enormous path. The gadgets and tools they are familiar with now have nothing to do with the ones that will be developed during their lifetime. It is necessary to instill in them a growth mindset and to help them develop computational thinking so they can positively face the problems and challenges life throws at their pace. (That said, contrary to what many believe embracing technology does not mean forgetting our humanity nor the human sciences. [Read more])
With all these in mind, we have decided to buy our daughter her first robot: the Bee-Bot. We don't know if our daughter would like to be an engineer, a gardener, an astronaut, a doctor, a plumber, a teacher, a carpenter, a photographer, a journalist, a travel writer or some other profession we don't even know yet because it has not been invented. What we know is that we'd like her to develop her abilities, to know her true talent and to know that robotics and programming are equally suitable for girls or boys. We also know it is important for her to discover things and to play with whatever most appeals her.
We have bought the starter pack which includes:
- a rechargable Bee-Bot with a USB lead you can use to charge the robot via your computer or with a USB main adapter (I prefer this option). It also comes with a mini-booklet of instructions (see here) so you can see how it operates (though the Bee-Bot is so intuitive you won't really need it).
- 4 activity mats:
Busy Street Map
2 Transparent Grid Mats
- 1 set of 49 sequence cards (7 cards repeated 7 times: Go, Clear, Forwards, Backwards, Right Turn, Left Turn)
- 10 white clip-on shells which can be used to change the aspect of the Bot making her a character in different entertaining and appealing stories.
All in all, the Bee-Bot can be a fun tool to use that will help your child see robotics and programming as something natural.
Don't forget her generation will be the ones inventing the future.
Let's give them the right tools and mindsets so they can succeed.
If you are not convinced yet, have a look at the Bee-Bot Activity guide prepared by Modern Teaching Aids (pdf here)