This paper presents findings from an on-going international study of Early Childhood (EC) teachers’ and children’s use of internet-connected toys (IoToys) to understand possibilities for developing children’s cognitive capacities (e.g., creativity, inquiry, engineering design thinking).
Material and methods:
The study employed a Design Based Research (DBR) method, where teachers intentionally plan and deliver technologically constructed Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) experiences for preschoolers. Using Australia as a case study, data collection involved participant observation of three teachers’ and 17 children’s technology constructed play experiences with robotic toys, littleBits electronic magnetic blocks, alongside pre and post semi-structured interviews with teachers and children’s photo voice sessions were video recorded.
Analysing the findings using embodied cognition theory showed that the teachers, although novice in their own technological pedagogical knowledge engaged children's play with the robotic toys, and co-learn with the children. Integration of STEM-focused playful experiences supported children’s scientific inquiry, design thinking and creativity as well as vocabulary targeted at interdisciplinary STEM concepts.
With the ever increasing focus on developing children’s 21st century skills, this study recommends engineering habits of mind, creativity and inquiry dispositions should now be taken into account in teaching and learning situations with young children and to develop STEM engagement.