In this talk, Dr. Bers will present an overview of her interdisciplinary DevTech research program by using the metaphor of playgrounds vs. playpens to understand the role of technology in children’s lives. Playgrounds are designed to promote exploration, discovery, and the development of motor and social skills. In contrast, playpens corral children into a safe, confined space. Although they are mostly risk-free, there is little imaginative play and problem-solving.
This presentation will use the playpen/playground metaphor to explore the role of coding, robotics and computational thinking for young children. Dr. Bers will provide examples of work with young children and teachers all over the world, involving the two environments she created: the free ScratchJr programming language and the KIBO robotic kit. The talk will cover ideas from her recent book Beyond Coding: How Children Learn Human Values through Programming in which she argues that coding should be taught not only as a technical skill but as a new literacy — a new way for children to express themselves and engage with the world and others.