Informations and abstract
Keywords: mental representation of robots, preschool children, social and discursive interaction, knowledge co-construction.
This research investigates what preschool children (3 to 6 years old) think about robots, in order to design and implement effective teachers’ training about educational robotics. The main hypotheses are: a) preschool children have an anthropomorphic idea of robots (robots are similar to human beings); b) preschool children do not have the concept of programming (they do not know that robots are programmed by human beings). The section of the study presented here involves 119 children and 22 teachers and uses four instruments: 1) a first individual drawing of a robot and its author’s description; 2) a semi-structured interview about robots; 3) a second individual drawing of a robot (produced after the interview) and its author’s description; 4) an autobiographical drawing. Phases 1), 2) and 3) have been audio or video recorded. The preliminary analyses of the drawings show that: a) the anthropomorphic representation of the robots is not the only option present, even though it has been found out in 75% of cases; b) the electromechanical components are present in 72% of graphic products. Moreover, the semi-structured interview produces significant modifications of children’s graphic representations: the second drawings shows that the anthropomorphic robots decrease, while the presence of electromechanical components increases. Finally, the study demonstrates that graphic representations, without other instruments, cannot be adequate to investigate children’s hypothesis and theories about robots: for example, the author’s description of drawing gives us important information about child’s ideas and reasoning that otherwise would remain completely unknown.