The Decabot project, together with its tangible programming language Code Domino, are based on a pragmatic reading of Wallon's theory on affectivity and learning, connected to the vision of empowerment of the program advocated by Seymour Papert. The artifacts created seek an improvement in the approach of teaching computer thinking to students, from literacy to university.
Seymour Papert is the researcher who, through Constructionism, bases research and products related to technological education. In essence, there are four basic principles:
- Learned by the personalized and meaningful project, shared with the community;
- Use of concrete objects to build and explore the world;
- Identification of key ideas in a field of study;
- Engagement in self-reflection as part of the learning process.
In the constructionist perspective, the child's metacognition (thinking about thinking) in the act of creating something is the key to private understanding, since its creation derives from its own world. Papert believed that the act of programming, with its sequence of orchestrated steps towards an end, but particular to each child, favored this metacognition. Papert compared the teaching of programming logic with literacy, since both allow the creation of artifacts that are detached from their creator: Texts in the case of literacy, and algorithms in the case of programming. In other words, for Papert, programming is a cognitive tool. In this comparison there is also the criticism of some approaches to teaching programming based on puzzles or challenges: For Papert, the necessary fluency is only achieved with the act of actually programming. For him, approaches linked to puzzles and challenges (such as instructing a character to leave a maze with a sequence of movements) do not give the child the freedom to actually create his artifacts. "It's like offering a punctuation and grammar class, and not allowing students to create their own stories."
The concept of affection for Wallon refers to the human being's ability to be emotionally impacted, in a positive or negative way, both by internal and external sensations. For Wallon, affection composes together with cognition and the motor act the set that allows the assimilation and construction of knowledge in the subject. Unlike common sense that separates cognition (reason) and emotion on opposite sides, for Wallon emotion works as a catalyst for cognition: an emotion is the mediating agent of pedagogical action. For affectivity, then, we have to be the capacity of something to affect the subject, collaborating or not for the cognitive assimilation of the same.
Wallon brought for the first time the importance of affectivity in the educational process, which, together with the cognitive and motor aspects, forms the triad of integral formation defended by the thinker. His studies mention that in order to activate intelligence, it is necessary to mobilize the subject's affections. Then there is the importance of Design for Affectibility in the design of educational systems and artifacts.
Affectivity deals with the characteristics of a system or artifact that influence the affective responses of its users. The principles of Design for Affectivity are presented as 6 points to be considered by system designers to support affectivity in their systems. Are they:
- Support the expression and interpretation of users' affective states, allowing them to communicate their emotion and affection to the system and / or to other users;
- Design for social values, based on the user's social and cultural contexts;
- Enable tailoring, or the use of personal elements to personalize the system;
- Promote collaborative construction;
- Promote the sharing of the emotional and social states of the participants;
- Allow emotions to go viral.
The definition of artifacts, Decabot robot and Code Domino language, based on requirements that favor teaching and affectivity, based on Wallon's triad cognition, affection and motor skills, are shown as a solution for the teaching of computational thinking. These artifacts are extensible in their capabilities (allowing students to seize the codes for solutions in their lives), and which can be used in addition to logic and programming skills. Affordable artifacts that actually have space in public schools in Brazil and other developing countries.
Preliminary results shed light on the project's collaboration for education on three points:
- No screen, no distraction: Due to the nature of the interaction being completely tangible, without the mandatory use of screen devices such as tablets and cell phones, the students' attention was constant to the experiment. In the individual experiments, the users showed themselves committed to the challenges given by the instructor. In collective experimentation, there was a greater tendency towards trial and error (and a natural stirring of many children together).
- Tangibility, an invitation to collaboration: The ease of assembling the pieces on the floor or on the table, and the simplicity in manipulating the commands proved to be positive for collaboration between children. None of the users were shy or reluctant to try assembling the codes via parts. In collective experiments the correction and group experimentation of the code followed without any fights or problems. Tangibility then shows an important factor against the hijacking of the machine's operation by one of the students in a group (usually the one who has already had experiences in the subject or in equipment). Shy students or girls subdued by boys may give up operating the computer in a class, for fear of making mistakes. Inviting and collaborative solutions can be a solution to the problem.
- More programming, less puzzles: The free exploitation of codes and the robot allowed users to predict uses beyond those presented by the evaluators. For example, when they notice that a sensor can trigger a programmed action, ideas soon emerge with that of a watchdog robot, where a presence sensor fires a tracking code that follows in pursuit of an intruder. battles or races in mazes also emerge with the possibilities of programming robots for other tasks. This result is in line with Papert's assumptions about the need for servant programming by children as a tool that expands their abilities, and not simply entertainment.