Robotics and enhancement of Mental Growth at an early age – The “Play” Perspective (Guest Post by Developmental Psychologist Ruchika Nirwan)
“Play” is known as an enjoyable phase in one’s life -- where no straight instruction and directions are required and the child can bloom on his own. Childhood work is Play and on daily error and trial learning, the students pass different stages of development. As physical and mental capacities expand, different play approaches emerge based on development level like:
- infants majorly stay engaged in “Cause and Effect” learning
- toddlers engage in sensory effects and
- the children of above ages go to construction, planning and other higher cognitive stages
Every child is different and their choices and preferences may vary. Let’s see how the play approach connects with robotics.
When we hear the term “Robotics,” we generally think of the electronic gadgets that are no less than magical creations. But today, the emerging need for Robotics is because it teaches students in many novel and experiential ways. Anything which is experiential registers in memory more as compared to just observing it superficially. Learning becomes more fruitful when a child is able to experience, have more fun and engages in a task filled with a lot of enjoyment.
Robots are an engaging, hands-on way of teaching children important concepts like math and science. They are quickly becoming a popular way to catch and keep a classroom's attention. Robotics can also be a fun stepping-stone for getting a child interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects that can lead to amazing careers later in life.
Robotics helps in mental growth as:
- It is Experiential
When one starts to work in the most experiential manner there is a lot of imprints which happens as a memory.
Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory (Kolb, 1984) defines experiential learning as "the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping and transforming the experience."
Experiential learning engages students in critical thinking, problem-solving and decision making in contexts that are personally relevant to them. Transfer of knowledge requires deep understanding. Recall and reproduction of material taught in the classroom do not constitute understanding. For knowledge to be usable, it has to be acquired in a situation. Otherwise, it is segregated from experience and unlikely to be remembered or transferred to new experiences. A well-understood material can be retrieved from memory and used in new situations because it is linked with multiple experiences and examples and not isolated from other experiences and knowledge.
- It boosts visual and motor memory
Children are visually wired – 50% of their brain is involved in visual processing, 70% of all their sensory receptors are in their eyes. Anything with Robotics they create holds onto their visual memory which helps them to memorise and grasp the content with more clarity and chances of recalling those concept becomes much more fluent.
Motor memory is a process by which human can adopt both persistent and flexible motor behaviours. When an activity is done with one object using varied actions or varied actions with one object, it holds a different impact on brain and learning becomes fast. The kids turn out to be more confident and skilled, as they feel they can successfully accomplish something. The more one gets engaged in different motor actions the more it helps in enhancing “Executive and Functioning Skills”.
- It enhances Executive Functioning (EF) skills
“EF Skills” holds a major importance in learning, as it is linked with a number of skills. Some of them are:
For any sustained activity it becomes important to pay attention and to adapt in our life circumstances and in different situations organization, planning and prioritizing becomes crucial as well. To develop and strengthen those brain wires, robotics helps. In generating many skills, Robotic Activities makes kids at an early age more engaged which leads to sustained play but majorly these three skills help kids to grow by developing the skills to pay and increase attention. By organizing different tools and focusing more on planning, it gives more skills to kids as it enlarges their perspective.
- It is Fun
Anything which is “fun” makes the learning smooth and chances to grasp, retrieve and recall becomes higher. Robotics generates Fun for kids and help kids to love every minute of it. The projects are varied and always get the kids interested and immediately into design thinking and problem-solving challenges. Kids get unique opportunities, as a result of attending Robotics for Fun, to develop conceptualization, building, and coding skills. Plus, it helps to keep a record of the projects they work on which give kids competency. It keeps them excited to work on more projects with fun and keeps them motivated.
Here I feel the importance of Robotics and the way it is helping children at a very early age to stay engaged in with different projects on different topics with more fun and excitement to build a bridge between difficult concepts.
About the Author: Ruchika Nirwan is a psychologist and a floor time therapist. She possesses more than 9 years of experience with kids having special needs, majorly autism, GDD and other developmental disabilities. She is a behavior modification expert. Recently, she has founded her own organization Learn and Play taking “Play” as the mode of therapy.
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