A play-based approach to learning about coding and robotics

Posted on November 24, 2022

After four years of collaboration with the Department of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education (SMTE), the interactive session on coding and robotics has become a much- anticipated annual event. This year Early Childhood Education (ECE) students were treated to coding and robotics with a twist. Mrs Trudie Didloff and her team from Tangible Africa presented a session on coding and robotics from the perspective of the coding app Boats, powered by Tangibl. As part of Science and Technology in the Foundation Phase (JST 320), approximately 60 ECE students attended the event held in the Normaal Hall on Thursday, 13 October 2022.

The session started off with ascertaining what the students knew and understood about coding and robotics. Mrs Didloff focused on demystifying coding and robotics by explaining that coding is the same as writing and executing a set of instructions. The students were given a practical example and asked to sequence the steps necessary to make a cup of tea. Another example that was given was that of playing the game ‘Simon says’. Mrs Didloff gave instructions for the students to carry out by, for example, standing on a chair, clapping hands, nodding their heads or jumping up and down. Through a play-based approach, the emphasis was placed on unplugged coding.

Later on, students were guided to code using the applications Boats and Tanks, powered by Tangibl, to engage in practical problem solving as a way to develop a code to move the boat in the app to the desired destination. It was a truly eye-opening activity during which the ECE students exhibited the values of diversity and acceptance, as well as collaboration, listening and reasoning skills. The discussions that took place in each group were testimony to the amount of learning that had taken place through play and enjoyable, collaborative discussions and creative problem solving. This amplified the need for the development and introduction of coding and robotics in the Foundation Phase.

Thank you to Prof Ronel Callaghan, Mrs Annèl van Rooyen and Prof Jean Greyling from the Nelson Mandela University for making this initiative possible.

- Author Authors: Ms Nadia Swanepoel and Mrs Annél van Rooyen

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