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EDUCATIONALTECHNOLOGYTOY Blog

A KIT TO TEACH CODING TO FUTURE ADULTS

2 October 2017 — by Fabio Guaricci

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Teaching coding to new generations is one of the trend topics nowadays. There are so many toys developed over the last few years that explore this topic, and are more or less effective in presenting educational solutions appropriate for various age groups. In this buzz stand out LEGO Boosta kit to teach coding to future adults.

We live in an era of big changes and is clear how technology is evolving taking big steps and ‘software’ is becoming central in everyday life. From applications to services, ‘intelligent objects’ to toys, the intangible component that animate things is increasingly there. This is not a criticism, but an analysis of the actual transformation that emphasizes the importance of teaching children this skill of the future. And not because in few years all the jobs will require to know how to code. The discipline of coding, among other things, educates children to computational thinking, a mix of math and logic to look at the world with a different perspective and address complex problems by ‘dismantling’ them in sequences of smaller problems.

Starting from these assumptions, the Danish toy giant recently launched a kit to teach coding to future adults. As in the 1950’s, the colored bricks had a huge success, becoming the passion of so many generations of children and adults, LEGO Boost was welcomed by critics and market as one of the best toys between analog and digital. The toy wins the ToyAward of the Spielwarenmesse 2017 in the SchoolKids category, even before the official launch on the market.

LEGO Boost consists of 847 bricks, the LEGO Move Hub (an interactive engine) and a distance and colors sensor that allow you to build 5 different models: Vernie the Robot, Frankie the Cat, the 4000 Guitar, the Rover 4 Multifunctional Machine (MTR4) and a kind of 3D printer. The age range is 7 to 12 years old and the kit also includes a tablet application. This is the heart of this kit, both educationally and functionally: at first it serves as instructions for the construction of the 5 different robots and then guides the programming and animation of the toy.

The application interface is one of the successful components of this toy. It’s designed in a simple and intuitive way, without any text and using only icons easily understandable by children. It begins with the choice of the robot to continue, step by step, with the instructions for construction, and then with the programming of actions with growing difficulty. This process helps the child gradually learn by giving him a tangible recognition each time for his work.

We’ve already talked about how important it is to design a toy with the right balance between analog and digital and LEGO Boost combines the traditional charm of LEGO building bricks with intuitive programming. This aspect makes the toy stimulating for children (even for nostalgic parents), who see their construction animate, interact and respond to their commands.

Surely the Danish company was not among the first to cover the path of educational and coding toy, actually it comes almost late than the other. LEGO Boost, however, demonstrates that while designing a kit to teach coding to future adults there are many factors to consider, including a well-structured research and a 360-degree design of gaming experience. Every detail in the user experience is cared in detail, from application to assembly, from disassembly to build a new character. This kit also demonstrates how a toy company with a cumbersome and well-defined identity can reinvent itself according to market trends by presenting a well-designed and cost-effective product (that aspect does not hurt especially by analyzing competitors in the industry).

DESIGNEDUCATIONALTECHNOLOGYTOY Blog

THE FUTURE OF TOY DESIGN IN SIX KEY POINTS

6 August 2017 — by Fabio Guaricci

Innovation moves fast in educational design and, moreoften than not, winks to cultural and technological trends. It has been understood by Fisher Price, the toys and kid’s products company with a 85-years history behind, which few months ago launched a ‘communication challenge’ with the video ‘The future of parenting’, or rather the future of toy design in six key points.

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A KIT FOR TEACHING ELECTRONICS THROUGH PLAYDOUGH

18 July 2017 — by Fabio Guaricci

Who has never used playdough to create strange three-headed monsters or a dream car? It has been a masterpiece of the toy world since the beginning of 1990 and remained almost unchanged till nowadays. Colored or fluo, homemade or industrial, this magical substance has always fascinated children and adults up to be used by sculptors for their first plastic models or even win two Oscars in the animation with Wallace & Gromit shorts. A toy company has brought to an even higher level this material, by designing a kit for teaching electronics through playdough.

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ROBOTICS AND TOY DESIGN TO SERVICE DISABILITY

16 May 2017 — by Fabio Guaricci

Nowadays the implementation of technology into medical environment is an hot topic, like the one of collaboration between robotics and toy design to service disability. There are plenty of case studies to demonstrate how progress in these fields is run by enlightened minds and by project teams made by people with different and sometimes opposite backgrounds. Most of times, exactly for this reason, they reach unexpected results.

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TOY DESIGNERS CAN USE TECHNOLOGY TO EDUCATE

12 April 2017 — by Fabio Guaricci

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We live in a world where technology breakthrough run fast, so we asked ourselves how toy designers can use technology to educate. New technologies for the users change, and often simplify, the way in which we approach our daily reality and not only. Among many sectors involved there’s also the education: school is slowly leaving its skin made out of books, exams and memorization to wear the one of new ways of teaching, often based on learning by doing.

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A COMPUTER FOR KIDS TO MAKE THEM CREATORS, NOT JUST CONSUMERS

18 January 2017 — by Fabio Guaricci

A computer for kids can be something that could be difficult to figure out. Ok, think about something saying to you: “Hello! I’m KANO. Thanks for bringing me to life. What should I call you?”. This is the first sentence that the Kano computer says. Kano is a DIY computer kit designed to help kids assemble a computer and learn basic coding skills.

What’s the reason? Today, children grow up surrounded by objects that appear magic. It’s rare for them to actually know how a computer works. The main aim consists in teaching non-experts how computers work ‘under the hood’.

EDUCATIONALTECHNOLOGY

HANDS ON CODING FOR PRESCHOOLERS

12 December 2016 — by Fabio Guaricci

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“Teach children to code before they can read.” This is the aim of Cubetto, a coding toy aged 3 and up. Why learn this discipline? Coding is one of the most talked topic in our century and it is probably something to don’t miss out. The idea is to teach kids the fundamentals of computer programming through adventure and hands on play.

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Indeed Cubetto is a friendly wooden robot that, without screens or words, allows to learn coding through play. This part of the project is very interesting. Cubetto is designed for preschoolers: children can use it even if they can’t read yet because it removes the complexity of language and screens from coding through a tangible programming language made of different parts. The game is very funny and have a good design both for the objects’ forms and for the imaginary stories that suggests. Children through Cubetto and its different scenarios can live a new story every time and improve their coding skills.

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The coding kit is composed by the Cubetto robot, the control board, the coding blocks, the world map and the story book. Now, does it works? The first part of the game is a little and friendly wooden robot, called Cubetto, characterized by two wheels (and two small bumps to help it glide), that allow Cubetto to roll around and turn left and right, and an arrow on the top to indicate its direction of travel. The game consists in driving Cubetto on the world map by writing a program using a set of colourful coding blocks. The blocks (16 flat plastic pieces) are the coding language, each block is an action. This blocks must be combined each other and placed on the board to create programs and tell Cubetto where to go. There are four different types of blocks: green for “move forward”, red for “turn right”,  yellow for “turn left” and blue for “function” that allows to run whatever sequence is placed in the rectangle at the bottom of the board. The board is a panel with 12 slots for the programming blocks, plus 4 slots for the function and a blue button to give the okay and execute the program. So, to program Cubetto, kids simply place the blocks into the board and then hit the button to activate it.

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It’s a very smart educational toy and a great self-learning tool. There is attention to details. In every step of the game the child is guided. There are the story book and the world map that introduce the child into the adventures of Cubetto and into programming with colourful, simply and funny graphics and illustrations. Then, when the child complete his program and push the blue button, the LEDs blink to indicate which block is currently used. Cubetto is not so fast and it pauses briefly between each instruction. So, it gives kids time to see the effects of their choices and the relation between blocks and movements.

Finally, Cubetto allows children to make an all-around experience in the computational thinking’s world  thanks to its mix of positive technology, material consistency, good designed story and magic poetry. This mix is a good way to make design about the child’s technology education. The designer’s challenge is to disassemble complexity into more simple steps and create a coherent design for the user that will use it.