Virtual Event: Playgrounds vs. Playpens: Coding, Computational Thinking, and Robotics in Early Childhood

Speaker: Marina Umaschi Bers, PhD, Professor, Tufts University, Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development; Secondary Appointment, Department of Computer Sciences
Presented virtually via Zoom webinar
Cost: Free with pre-registration; $5 suggested donation appreciated
Registration required: Register Now

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 Scratch Jr 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.

About the speaker:
Dr. Marina Umaschi Bers heads the interdisciplinary DevTech research group and is a professor at the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development at Tufts University, with a secondary appointment in the Computer Science Department. Her research involves the design and study of innovative learning technologies to promote young children’s positive development. She is a pioneer in the field of early childhood technology with projects of national and international visibility. Dr. Bers is the co-creator of the free ScratchJr programming language, used by over 30 million children all over the world, and the creator of the KIBO robotic kit, which helps children learn how to code in a playful way without screens or keyboards, using wooden blocks. She is author of five books on the topic of education, new technologies and children. Her newest book Beyond Coding: How Children Learn Human Values through Programming is to be published in Spring 2022 by The MIT Press.

This event is made possible by Foundation for MetroWest.