Are toys going out of fashion? From the classic ABC blocks to Barbie dolls to Avengers action figures, every generation has its favourite toys. In today’s digital world, kids are already furiously tapping and swiping away on smartphones and computer tablets at a tender age. So, are physical toys really still necessary?
Say hello to Bee-Bot! Far from the imposing figure of the Transformers’ Bumblebee, this little robot is irresistibly cute, friendly and is designed for young children to learn while playing. Having the distinctive colours and shape of a bumblebee, the Bee-Bot is also easy to operate and teaches the child about sequencing and problem solving. Perhaps most importantly, it’s fun to play with!
Bee-Bot is part of a range of tech-enabled toys introduced to preschools as part of IMDA’s PlayMaker programme. Through the use of technology, tech toys help to introduce fundamental coding and computational thinking concepts to children at a young age. These hands-on learning tools also provide a fun and engaging way for children to experiment, explore and collaborate with others.
Beyond the Basics
To help teachers integrate the use of these tech toys in their classrooms, IMDA partnered with the Association for Early Childhood Educators Singapore (AECES) to introduce a “Tech Toys in Pre-school Classrooms” certification course.
The two-and-a-half-day certification course helps teachers explore the creative and effective use of tech toys; understand the impact of technology on the child’s development and learning; share experiences as a community of educators, and engage children with diverse needs.
The course allows educators to work with various tech toys and helps them to become comfortable and confident in using the tech toys effectively. There is face-to-face learning in class facilitated by experienced facilitators and a learning circle to allow peer feedback and sharing. Participants work on sample lesson plans, conduct the lessons in classes and share them at the Learning Circle.
For educators who were first-time users, it was an exciting journey as they figured out how to operate the toys on their own, experiencing the same uncertainty and excitement the children would feel first-hand. Zion Bishan Kindergarten teacher, Chan Li Teng, was one such user.
“I find it interesting and engaging due to the hands-on learning. I can imagine it will be even more so for our young children,” Chan enthused. “They will be very excited when they see these tech toys for the first time!”
There is perhaps no better way to learn a tech toy than to create a project with it. That’s exactly what the teachers did during the course. Besides practising on Tech Toys such as LittleBits, Bee-Bot and KIBO, teachers also created project-based lesson plans using the toys together with recycled materials and other components.
The role reversal was in full swing as the teachers became students, expressing their creativity and enthusiasm as they worked on their projects. Hope Community Kindergarten (Choa Chu Kang) teacher, Lim Siew Eng was happy to share, “Our project is to create bubble art. The motion and light sensors can activate the toy to start blowing bubbles.”
Meanwhile, road safety was the focus for the project by E-Bridge Pre-school teacher Amreet Khaira. The lesson plan required the learner to make use of the motion sensors and sound alarm in LittleBits to simulate a scenario where two vehicles are too near each other.
Through this process of experimenting and prototyping, the educators came across potential problems that could arise, everyone actively exchanged feedback and gave suggestions for improvement.
The course was undoubtedly a positive experience for all participants. Lim opined, “The practical aspect of the course gave us an idea how to conduct our lessons.”
The interactive approach was very much welcomed as Khaira affirmed, “I’m someone who prefers more hands-on learning from examples. Having these aspects in the course made it easier for me to absorb.”
Meanwhile, Khaira observed, “There is no fixed way of using tech toys, learners are free to explore during the lesson. It’s interesting that everybody will have his/her own way of integrating these tech toys into their curriculum.”