Session F1C PEDATRONICS: ROBOTIC TOYS AS A SOURCE TO EVOKE YOUNG GIRLS’ TECHNOLOGICAL INTEREST Christina Aderklou1 , Lotta Fritzdorf 2 , Ulla Tebelius3 , Jeanette Bengtsson4 and Albert-Jan Baerveldt 5 Abstract This paper presents some results within Pedatronics; a fusion between pedagogics and mechatronics. Our research interest is to study what emerges in the play with robotic toys. Field-experimental studies of 6-7 year old children’s purposeless play with robotic toys created a self-developmental sphere, as well as evoked young girls’ technological interest. Both girls and boys prolonged and intensified their interest according to the amount of gadgets involved. The results disclose a learning potential, indicating the importance to develope strategies at an early stage in order to encourage girls to choose technological and engineering educations. The study recommend engineers and toy designers, in cooperation with children, to move towards ‘Integrated Play Systems´. Due to an ethological method, the results differ from other studies of children’s play with technological advanced artefacts.
the way of teaching, i.e. into PBL and more project-oriented. A holistic view and the benefit of computer-based products and systems for society was emphasised throughout the program, as well as the development of other competencies than pure engineering. Similar ideas permeates the program of Edutainmet Software Designers (ESD) at the university . Initially, the project seemed to be succesfull. The amount of female students increased from a few percent to about 25 %. However, now, five years later, the sum is back to the level of a few percent. In ESD only two females attended this year. These examples show that there is a need for a deeper understanding of the critical gender gap in technology and engineering. In this study we explore the genesis of technological interest in the sphere of 6-7 year old childrens play with technologically advanced toys.
Index Terms Ethological Reading, Gender Identity, Integrated Play Systems, Pedatronics, Robotic Toys
In this article we have chosen to put forward some results within a field we call ‘pedatronics’; the research field between educational science and mechatronical engineering. We are looking upon ongoing and rising practices as new forms of social playgrounds with toys (digital complexed tools and environments) to learn and develop through and with -. Robotic toys are available at low cost and meet an increasing popularity among children. It is of great importance to investigate what children’s play with these new robotic toys offer in terms of technology interest and how it relates to learning and development. A robotic toy is an artefact or a computer that usually can move with help of small motors. The toy can receive information from the surrounding with help of sensors, for example contact sensors, sensors that measure strength of light, or a colour camera which is a more sophisticated sensor. Information from the sensors are collected in the build-in computer and decoded into certain behaviors according to the recived surronding. Various degrees of artificial intelligence (AI) is a common ingredience in computer games as well as in robotic toys. As for the latter group, it can be categorized into different subgroups. Children seems to be used to the fact that toys in themself can act. The toys in our study is far from being regarded as carrier of AI or self-learning systems, though
INTRODUCTION On a Swedish national level there is an urge to encourage girls to take an interest in technology and engineering, due to the low rate of women active in the technological field. At Halmstad University, Sweden, during the last two years only three females has entered the Computers Systems Engineering program (CSE), compared to 70 male students. A reason to be concerned about this is that society of today is often referred to as a technological society. This indicates the impact technology has on us today, and in the future. The fact that there are so few women compared to men in the technological field shows an unbalanced society in terms of equality. To prevent this in the future, it is important to stress the relevance of women taking interest in technology and engineering. One step taken by some universities to approach this problem has been to introduce special female educations in engineering. During the period 1996-1998, Halmstad University performed a major reform project of the CSE with the goal to attract more women to the program. The strategy to achieve the goal included an increased marketing effort to recruit female students, but the largest effort was put on changing the contents of the program and 1 2 3 4 5
Christina Aderklou, Halmstad University, School of Social and Health Science, S-301 18 Halmstad, Sweden, [email protected]
Lotta Fritzdorf, Halmstad University, School of Social and Health Science, S-301 18 Halmstad, Sweden, [email protected]
Ulla Tebelius, Halmstad University, School of Social and Health Science, S-301 18 Halmstad, Sweden, [email protected]
Jeanette Bengtsson, Halmstad University, School of Social and Health Science, S-301 18 Halmstad, Sweden, [email protected]
Albert-Jan Baerveldt, School of Information Science, Computer & Electrical Engineering, S-301 18 Halmstad, Sweden, [email protected]
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Session F1C often marketed as that. The boundary between AI and not AI is fluent and difficult to stress.
ON BREAKING PATTERNS OF SOCIAL HABITS Technology influences the conditions of people’s daily life and this, in turn, has an impact on the notion of gender and gender relations in society. Gender can be discussed in terms of the need to belong and identify oneself to something, as well as shaping habits in everyday life. Peirce’s concept of habit and change connect semiotics and psychoanalysis, a notion especially useful in relation to gender . Technology has a great impact on the dynamic reorganisation of self. New technologies change our ways to act and think. The habit-change results from the continuous semiotic interaction between the ‘inner world’ and the ‘outer world’ is a continually ongoing process. For this to happen the child has to relate to what is going on ‘out there’ . ‘No mind can take one step without the aid of other minds’  is an expression to have in mind. However, new experiences can change the complex of habits, associations, perceptions, and expectations, which arises from the interplay between the “inner” and the “outer” world into new habitus. The World of Experience The most important learning in children’s lives appears long before they start to go to school. The self-regulation takes place in dialogues and play with others and things they relate to . The central theme throughout childhood is to become  more skilled and more co-operative; simply stated to become more competent. Children more than others live in the world of experience  and this is where the learning and construction of selves, others and the world arises. These processes have their ‘igniting sparks’  in an amodal perception of the world (i.e. holistic). According to newer dynamic developmental theories , the on-going processes of learning and change start with, and are dependent on the child’s self-relatatedness in the immediate situation. This situation of ‘Here and Now’ is depended upon three contemporary moments; earlier interpersonal experiences of ‘being with’ something or someone particular (schemata), gathered similar experiences (‘Representations of Interactions that have been Generalized’—RIGs), and direct sense (the immediate eye-moment). In the light of this the attitude towards the child should contain a tribute to the child as an equal and competent human being. The direct sense-making happens through a-modal perception and constructive efforts – which are self-organizational. Every time this occurs the child seems somewhat different, even if the core of self still is there. The other way around would be a life without memories. When these memories are awakened the child have an ‘evoked companion´  who help the child to behave according to earlier patterns (i.e. gender and habits). Sometimes the child finds him/herself without this companionship; the ’strange situation’  occurs drastically. This situation is both
tickling and frightening – the foundation of evoked interest. Berg derivates interest or ‘inter-esse’ (Lat.) ’to be in the midst of’; to be absorbed by the present . A condensed summary of pedagogical implications of D.N. Sterns self-development theory, the method in-use, and the qualitatively different self-organizational domains and their signs: The Sense of an Emerging Self: Intense presence - an ‘awakening of self’. An oceanic sense like a wave or a holistic experience; a-modal capacity. The heart of creativity and learning. Earlier they (i.e.Piaget) belived that children experienced seperated aspects (modalities) of objects, others and the world. In later years attention is focused on the affects fundamentally importance for the apprehension of the world. The origin of knowledgeconstruct resides at this level. Scientificly observable signs are: vitality-affects; being-in ’esse’. The Sense of a Core Self: Individualisation and differentition - the other or the thing is not I. The ‘interest of the world outside self’; social capacity. The eager sense to want and to be able to. An important educational aspect here is self-agency. The source of spontanious communication. The origin for dialogue (play) resides at this level. Scientificly observable signs are: interactive turn-taking. The Sense of a Subjective Self: Interpersonal recognition, ‘you are alike myself’; intersubjective capacity. The need of being ‘seen’ from within. A tool for heart to heart shareness – not by imitation or mirroring, but by putting the event forward. Important educational aspects here is time and intensity. The source of mutuality and respect for unlikeness. The origin for understanding resides at this level. Scientificly observable signs are: affectattunement. The Sense of a Verbal Self: Symbolic abstraction; imaginative capacity. A new medium for communication – the world of words. From the development of this level, the human will always live in two worlds; the affective and the linguistic world. Stern mean that ‘The language is a tweegged sword’ that faciliate dialogue and limits the amodal experience. The source of negotiation. The origin of self-reflection resides at this level. Scientificly observable signs are: dissociation from the immediate and negotiates boundaries. The Sense of a Narrative Self: Construction of myself by making the ‘story of me’; creative capacity. The development of language has opened up possibilitys to change the story about myself, others and things. The source of construction of meaning, apprehending and ideas. The origin of experimenting and creating resides at this level. Scientificly observable signs are: story-telling in action (both verbal and pre-verbal). From here on we will use self-development instead of learning, development and identity. This concept opens up the possibility to look upon the phenomenon as becoming more competent and not as separated or different processes .
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Session F1C Play as a Self-Developmental Sphere According to the perspective mentioned above, the pedagogical challenge is how to make children relate to something particular and find out which quality and meaning this relatedness has for the child’s self-development. If we want to understand learning from this angle, studying ‘purposeless play’  is a relevant way. There is a debate, if play should be seen as a ‘free’ activity and an expression for children’s self-regulation, or be regarded as a cultural activity . We do not consider these assumptions as separate. According to C.S. Peirce and D.N. Stern, the different approaches to the concept of play can stand for both the ‘inner world’ and the ‘outer world’. There is no such thing as a personal ‘inner world’ when it comes to change. It is not fruitful to separate them from each other when the purpose is to study play, learning and development. On the contrary, they are intimately connected to each other; the brain itself is social, i.e. interpersonal. Play in the ‘outer world’ is considered as a purposeless activity, building on self-relatedness in the ‘inner world’. Seen in another way would implicate a very passive view of the child; as not competent. Closely connected to purposeless play is the concept of ‘self-agency’ ; meaning that the child actually experience the events in play as coming from him/her and not planned from somewhere else. We believe this to be a critical point when it comes to self-development. The Gendered Toy Toys are more than established representations of how it is to be a girl or a boy. Toys can be seen as an important aspect in re-organisation of those representations and in the construction of new representations . Gender in itself is a socio-cultural construction , but still it has real impact on girls’ and boys’ self-developmental formation. This as a result of self being in constant development, which means an ongoing process of self-development for life. As gender is an important mean of classification in our society, young girls and boys make these constructions their own and use them when forming their selves . In other terms; the self is never really completed. In a similar way play, in this case involving robotic toys, could be looked upon as an ongoing process of self-development. It does not end or stop simply because the toys are put down. Looking Beyond ‘The Sexual Contract’ Gender identity is an ongoing process starting at the early stages of socialisation. It is a social construction which is, in part, built on a notion about the biological differences between the sexes. The ‘sexual contract’ is a hidden one, behind the concept of` ’the social contract’ or gender contract. The latter is a contract between men only with the aim to confirm masculinity and heterosexuality . On the one hand, gender socialisation on behalf of the individual could be seen as an expression of self-regulation to the expectations and demands of the society. On the other hand,
within this frame of reference the individual constructs her/his gendered self-development out from her/his interpersonal experience (habits in a Peircian sense). Thus, gender identity is not a shallow phenomenon, but something that’s deeply founded in the self, sprung from the social context in which we are brought up. In society gender is surrounded by expectations of certain behaviour and choices, even small children have determined ideas about what is ‘girlish’ or ‘boyish’. There is a stereotyped notion that means that boys’ play is more complex, involves participation and team formation . Others claim that seven year old boys are more involved in group- and exploratory play than girls are . Hence, the girls are more occupied by role-playing and play in groups of two. Even in research these stereotypes are carried forward. Earlier qualitative research shows that girls do not turn away from computers when it comes to aggressive computer games . However, they consider it ‘boyish’ . More boys seem to have a harder approach towards computers, using a planned, structured approach. A softer, intuitive approach is more prevailing among girls . It has also been analysed as a ‘radar-oriented’ approach, mostly among boys, and girls as more ‘antenna-oriented’ while working with and around computers in classrooms . According to the latter studies both orientations are intentional and captures the situation although in different manners. The boys’ radar-orientation involves both head and body. The girls’ sit still and catch signals like an antenna. Both boys and girls experiment equally in interplay with and through computers . When handling computers freely, girls and boys seem to have a playful and exploring attitude toward the device .
M ETHOD In consequence with the theories above an iterated, qualitative design was created. In the light of this, the study consists of two separate field-experiment; study A and B, analysed as one, due to the search for patterns and variants. Participants: Voluntary participation in purposeless play. Study A: 5 girls, 5 boys. Study B: 6 girls, 8 boys. 6-7 year old children in each study. The groups are socioeconomically comparable from different Swedish schools. Material: 3 robotic toys; a dog with a bone, a cat with a fish, a doll with lot of gadgets, toy manuals and a digital video-recorder as well as two researchers. The robotic toys were chosen upon what was available in the nearest toy store.
FIGURE. 1 T HE T HREE ROBOTIC T OYS
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Session F1C All robotic toys typically offer three different types of responses such as sound, light or different grades of movement as a response to a child’s actions. In both schools the studied activity took place in rooms that the children usually were playing in. Study A: was a room that had this purpose besides other physical activities, usually called the ‘hall of play’. Study B: the same room for play as for work. Procedure: The schools were contacted and asked if they could let the children play with robotic toys without the children being prepared for it and without given instructions to the activity. The teachers were informed that the purpose of the study was not to investigate the separate children but the play. The parents were not asked, but informed afterwards due to that the activity was reckoned as a everyday play activity. The process started by placing the robotic toys in the room, where the children were having their next activity. The robotic play was observed and video recorded. One researcher did non- participant observations at the setting at hand parallel with video-recorded play at a duration of 45-60 min. The micro-analysis were performed by ‘ethological reading’ . We asked the data: What emerges in the play and what urges the learning ahead and could it be related to gender? The unit of analysis is the qualitiatively different signs of self-development in process. This level of communication are refered to as the pragmatics of human communication or meta-communication .
RESULT The amount of participating children altered. They went in and out of the play-context. In both settings 2 children deviated (study A; 2 boys, Study B; 2 girls) instead they engaged in robot-construction (painting). TABLE I SELF-DEVELOPMENTAL SIGNS IN THE P LAY WITH ROBOTIC T OYS Qualities Examples of Events Emerging Interest: Moving and leaning towards, wide-eyed exploring, Self silence, ‘Non-interest’: laugh, run, jump, spin around, making summersaults. Interest and ‘non-interest’ explore and fade away continuously. Core Self Striving to navigate; through voice, pushing, pulling, feeding, stall, pat, feed, lift/pick up and cuddle with, make cat- and doglike sounds, frustration. Subject Self
The robotic toys; fall in love, know how to count, sleep, urinate. Try to evoke the toys – resignee. Between the children; point, give each other things, create relations, load and unload the other with energy, and support each other.
Talk, command, teach/lecture and negotiate about the toys and the gadgets, trade who and whom should take care of the gadgets that belong to the robotic doll.
Narrative Investigate, experiment, make inquires, tell things about Self themselves and the robotic toys and their gadgets. Boyish or girlish ‘stories’
Even though the robotic toys were capturing all the children at first, a few differences were found that can be related to gender, interest or the robotic toy. The robotic doll did not evoke any interest at a first glance. The robotic pets appealed to them at first, but did not offer so much. The robotic doll on the other hand seemed to encourage cooperative play and with all the gadgets around it seemed to evoke a focused and longer interest than the robotic pets did. The robotic doll was more difficult to figure out. Gendered Patterns and Differences Girls; The girls (and a few boys) were mostly sitting on the floor. When moving they either changed their legs from under or in front of themselves. A couple of girls alternated between the floor and some chairs located by the wall The girls sat near to each other i groups. A girl protected her play with the robotic doll by turning her back towards some boys trying to lay hands on the doll. They cuddled with the robotic cat and dog, and sometimes kept the robotic doll in their knees and in their arms. They made several attempts to communicate with the robotic doll, but finally gave up as the doll constantly repeated the same sentences. They tried to cope in different manners, but showed frustrations when they could not. Instead they tried out the gadgets. The girls played from time to time with all of the toys, but returned to the doll and all the gadget. There were mostly girls communicating with each other while trying to figure out how it worked. More girls than boys took part in joint playing (with-others-play). They were collaborated, trying to make the interaction with the doll and all her gadgets work as they intended. The girls continued playing. While playing, the girls frequently ‘checked out’ what was going on in the room. Now and then they glanced and slightly moved head and shoulders while watching the others and the robotic toys. At the end of the session the girls started to explore where the sensors on the doll was and discussed and negotiate how it worked. Boys; Most boys (and few girls) were moving and spinning around a lot, now and then, trying to do summersaults. The boys were more engaged in playing with the robotic pets at first. This play was more physical; running across the floor, trying to get the pet, to react on the children´s command. The boys pushed the robotic toys in front of them. More boys than girls had problems finding their rhythm in playing. The boys went in and out of the robotic toy play as their energy rose and declined. Some boys returned to the doll now and then, those how gave up fast on the robotic pets stayed by the robotic doll and the gadgets around. It was more common that the boys went to look at the manuals instead of turning to each other for support. Randomly they ‘checked out’ what others was doing, but not at all when engaged in the more physical play with the robotic pets, exept when they formed pairs in purpose to compete between the pets. They inspected the surrounding by spinning themself around.
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Session F1C DISCUSSION Scientific Considerations Pragmatics: (a) Explore ways of understanding and coping with the gendered inequality within technology through realtime micro-analyses. (b) Gain knowledge from a combination of dynamic, developmental theories and mechatronics. (c) Amalgamating mechatronics and pedagogics into Pedatronics, giving impact to innovation, design, usability and child development. Trustworthy: (a) The choice of child-groups was made upon socio-economic compability, as well as a pedagogical vision. (b) The children were differently introduced to the toys. In study B the toys were put on the floor before the children entered the room. In study A the children came into the room before the toys were ready, which made them wait for instructions. This affected the first minutes of the interplay. The different Self-Development qualities are cathegorized in line with the way of analysis earlier described as ethological readings of interplay. To visualize the different signs of learning and development we presented our results in tabell 1. Plausibility: Change of the senses of the inside during the play are captured as change in signs on the outside. As the inner and outer world form a totality, what we captured through ethological reading were the signs of selfdevelopment. Morality: (a) The study was carried out with regard to and concern about faithfullness to empiric data. (b) the study is not affected or founded by toy manufactors or designers. Ethically: The study was performed according to The Swedish Research Councils (HSFR) ethical praxis. No video-recordings showing the children are being shown without approval from the children and their parents. Deviated Patterns Earlier studies have shown that boys are occupied by complex and exploratory play. They create groups but girls create role-playing and prefer pair-constellations. We did not observe signs that supported these. On the contrary, while playing with the robotic toys it seemed to work the other way around. Within this limited study we can not say if the results depends on the micro-analysis or the situation in the present case. Further studies within the area is recommended. But, still here is traces of something that might lead to a shift in education according to gender equality. We also found differences in the way the girls and boys approach the robotic toys compared to computer games. The earlier discussed ‘harder-softer’- and ‘radar-antennaoriented’ approaches, can be looked upon as dichotomized view of how children learn. However, both strategies are useful in getting to know and handle computers and robotic toys, as well as other things in their environment and they
are not meant to be seen as definite categories. The analysis supports that girls are sitting still and perceive like an antenna, and the boys like a radar. No larger differences related to gender were found except for the duration of their interest and change of activity as well as how they held the robotic toys; close or at a distance. More boys than girls had problems finding their rhytm in playing. The boys went in and out of the robotic toy play as their energy waves rose and declined, while the girls continued playing for a certain time. For the boys it looked like ‘the roaring sea’ as they expressed more vigorous and varied movements. This infact gave the girls space to explore the robotic toys and its functions in a more relationistic way. This evoked more interest and they started to discover the robotic doll with focus on what makes it work, as for the sensors, battery and so on. It should have been interesting to also discover a way for boys to become more relational, because ‘out there’ activities in life are depending on relations. The children’s interest was most significant in the beginning of a new interplay experience, and more courisity driven, when the play converted toward a more directed approach, strongly related to the group. This gives us further hints of the importance of ‘the sense of an emerging self’ as the ‘igniting spark’ to learning and development. More girls than boys took part in the playing together with-others-play. The robotic doll and all the gadgets around seemed to evoke a focused and prolonged interest more than the robotic pets did independed of gender. ‘Integrated Play System’ Our results indicate the importance not to build in all play functions from a start in the robotic toys. From a pedagogical view we want the robotic toys to be equipped with a lot of separate gadgets, which can be used in different ways and affect the robotic toys’ functions. We suggest that it might be a good idea to develop what we call Integrated Play Systems (IPS) e.g. ‘move-able’ computers with separate open-ended gadgets. Similar thoughts are discussed in relation to children’s joint play through the Internet . Run-Ups to Technological Curiosity During the field-experiments the immediate presence changed. It did not change for all the children at the same time. This supports that it was related to the emerging self and not an inter-subjective experience. At a macro-level the boys’ activity when not playing with the robotic toys could be seen as non-interest On a micro-analytic level this is a way to gather energy to continue to produce ‘igniting sparks’. This explaines why we in the result put ‘noninterest’ as signs of vitally-affects [tabel 1]. There has to be space ‘to recharge the batteries’ as well as different ways of approaching advanced digital artefacts, as computers and robotic toys. The self-domains now and then change in strength like different waves, which meet and roll together. Some children have a greater demand of space to be able to
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Session F1C get interested, sense self-agency, to cope with the situation and to gain competence. It seems relevant to look into the self-developmental sphere in play especially from an early stage in children’s lives – when toys have an important impact on children’s everyday lives. What we learn from these field-experiments are that in education we can not considerate only the last two self development domains. We have to start “reading” the children and the activities involved and stimulate them to relate to things the way they prefer. What is specific of the robotic doll from a gender perspective is that it cause efforts to affect-attune, at the same time as it contains advanced technology. A way to especially evoke the girls’ interest is to allow them to play with robotic toys, which are not completed but give space for the children’s creative play. We trust play to be a self-developmental sphere, which may function from its own premises. We trust children as competent and interested in their environment. Our empirical data points out a track to follow to promote girls’ technological interest, which in the long run can generate a higher amount of girls in technology and engineering education. Conclusion
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From this first glance into the field of pedatronics we can give some directions as to how to get there; • start from childrens purposeless play if we want to understand and bridges the gender gap in technology and engineering • involve the three first self-domains in education, meaning the whole self • permit different ways to approach technology • co-operate with children in engineering • integrated play systems
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