Sunday, October 30, 2011

More skills than a robot in block play

We have talked about the importance of playing with blocks to develop math concepts. Block play in preschools also helps children with a number of other skills including eye-hand coordination, social-emotional development, and imagination.
When a toddler places one block on top of another, he is completely engaged in the challenge he has given himself. He is integrating what he sees with what is happening with his hand and the block. It has taken engineers and computer scientists years and years to program robots to do what this child is accomplishing around one year of age.
Now let’s imagine putting 4 or 5 robots in the block corner. Each robot has a computer program running to create structures with the available blocks. However there is a limited amount of space for the robots to move in and a limited number of blocks. Will the computer scientists and engineers ever be able to program robots to work together? Our little children between the ages of three and five can accomplish what the most sophisticated technology cannot.
Imagination? Can imagination ever be programmed into a robot? I think not; but I do think many four year olds have imagined themselves as robots this past Halloween and can pretend to be a cranberry, a pumpkin, or a turkey in this song for Thanksgiving.


A Cranberry ran away
Before Thanksgiving day
Said he, “They’ll make a sauce out of me
If I should stay.”

A Pumpkin ran away
Before Thanksgiving day
Said he, “They’ll make a pie out of me
If I should stay.”

A Turkey ran away
Before Thanksgiving day
Said he, “They’ll make a roast out of me
If I should stay.”

Six simple characters can illustrate this song.  The child holding the cranberry runs away and finds the picture of the sauce. The pumpkin finds the pie and the turkey finds the roast.

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