What pupils can learn from working with robotic direct manipulation environments

Lou Slangen*, J. van Keulen, Koeno Gravemeijer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


This study investigates what pupils aged 10–12 can learn from working with robots, assuming that understanding robotics is a sign of technological literacy. We con- ducted cognitive and conceptual analysis to develop a frame of reference for determining pupils’ understanding of robotics. Four perspectives were distinguished with increasing sophistication; ‘‘psychological’’, ‘‘technological’’, ‘‘function’’, and ‘‘controlled system’’. Using LegoÒ MindstormsÒ NXT robots, as an example of a Direct Manipulation Envi- ronment, we developed and conducted a lesson plan to investigate pupils’ reasoning pat- terns. There is ample evidence that pupils have little difficulty in understanding that robots are man-made technological and functional artifacts. Pupils’ understanding of the controlled system concept, more specifically the complex sense-reason-act loop that is characteristic of robotics, can be fostered by means of problem solving tasks. The results are discussed with respect to pupils’ developing technological literacy and the possibilities for teaching and learning in primary education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-469
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Technology and Design Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Technological literacy 􏰀 Robotics 􏰀 Direct manipulation environments 􏰀 Primary education 􏰀 Technology education 􏰀 Programming 􏰀 Robotic concepts 􏰀 Mind tools


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