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Sep 01 2016 - 08:00 PM
Playful Talk Enhances Collaborative Robotics Learning

Play is an important approach for students to learn about robots in an open-ended robotics program. Through play, students investigate how robots work and they learn about engineering and programming principles. Playful talk, such as joking, in these open activities is an important social aspect that can contribute to effective collaboration and group learning.

In a recent study, researchers wanted to understand in what ways these playful conversations can enhance learning. They selected a focus group of three students in a middle school physics-based robotics unit, and followed them closely to explore this research topic. They video- and audio-recorded all class sessions, conducted interviews with the science teacher and students, and took notes during classroom observations to capture these students’ participation and social interactions comprehensively.

Findings revealed that there were several kinds of playful talk in this program, including humor, music making, teasing, pop culture references, word-play, and joking about conflict. Students with various backgrounds and personalities used different kinds of playful talk in these collaborative learning activities. For instance, two girls in the focus group used playful positioning and teasing as a means to reframe robotics as a girls’ activity and gained more control over group activities that used to be dominated by boys. In addition, when group coordination was not working well in the middle of the program, joking about conflict and word play among group members helped facilitate group solidarity and contributed to high level coordination among members.

This study reminds educators to pay attention to informal social interactions, as those moments can provide great opportunities for students. Creating a playful learning climate is not only useful for engaging learners, but can actually contribute to effective collaborative learning.

Sullivan, F. R., & Wilson, N. C. (2015). Playful talk: Negotiating opportunities to learn in collaborative groups. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 24(1), 5-52.

Image: Robot via Flickr
|By: Ching-Fu Lan|764 Reads