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Technological Thinking By Young Childern


Dr. Khalid Matar

We grow and live in technology-saturated environments. From the beginning of our lives we interact with a wide range of artifacts, we consume products synthesized in artificial processes, we live immersed in the "second order" environment we have created - the artificial world. As a consequence, we face the need to construct gradually the appropriate cognitive and metacognitive resources required for interacting with, and even contributing to the making of, the artificial world. Children, as a result of the intense interaction with complex-artifacts saturated environments (e.g., sophisticated toys, microprocessor-embedded domestic devices, remote-controlled music or TV sets, automatic doors and elevators, and many other "behaving" devices) develop these resources intuitively over the years. We firmly believe that we should build on these intuitive cognitive/affective constructs and support their further development from the very early stages of children's intellectual development.

The goals of the proposed study are to conduct a systematic examination of (a) young children's conceptions of the artificial world and its artifacts; (b) their acquaintance with structural and functional properties of artifacts; (c) their understanding of phenomena and processes in the artificial world; and (d) their learning of skills and methods for solving problems and generating technological solutions.

A core component in the proposed study will be a developmentally appropriate curricular/cognitive model focusing on Technological Thinking by Young Children (TTYC). The model will be developed on the basis of the growing body of research knowledge on children's perceptions of the artificial, their ability to interact with and manipulate complex artifacts, and their ability to construct and develop solutions. The TTYC model will serve as conceptual framework for the close examination of (a) children's perceptions, conceptions and understandings, and (b) their learning process of skills and methods and ability to implement these in generating solutions. The TTYC model will comprise five main foci or strands (S1 to S5): S1 - the designed/artificial world (artifacts and their structure/functioning/use/context); S2 - problem solving (from haphazard to budding systematicity in planning and implementing solutions); S3 - design (from free-form building to designed/reflective construction); S4 - notations (from conventional signs to computer programs); S5 - smart artifacts (from analysing controlled-artifacts behaviors to the design of adaptive behaviors with simple robots).

The study's population are children at the ages of 5 to 7 years. Several sets of instruments will be developed: (1) resources and infrastructure for conducting the study - e.g., building kits, robot-control interface appropriate for the target age level; (2) a battery of tasks in correspondence with the foci, concepts, skills and processes of the different strands of the TTYC model; (3) data collection instruments: (a) a series of tasks for assessing children's conceptions, knowledge, skills and overall technological thinking to be administered before and after the learning processes; (b) systematic data-collection instruments to be administered during the learning processes - e.g., structured observation and interview protocols, computer logs.