The Principles of Educational Robotic Applications (ERA)


The original educational robots were the Logo Turtles. They derived their rationale from constructionism. How has this changed? This paper postulates ten principles that underpin the effective utilisation of robotic devices within education settings. We argue that they form a framework still sympathetic to constructionism that can guide the development, application and evaluation of educational robots. They articulate a summary of the existing knowledge as well as suggesting further avenues of research that may be shared by educationalists and designers. The principles also provide an evaluative framework for Educational Robotic Applications (ERA). This paper is an overview of the ideas, which we will develop in future papers.

Catlin, D. and Blamires, M. (2010). The Principles of Educational Robotic Applications (ERA): A framework for understanding and developing educational robots and their activities. Proceedings of Constructionism 2010, American University, Paris, France. (more…)

Classroom Maker Projects and User Bots

Using Roamer in Maker Projects

Catlin, D. (2019, November 20). Classroom Maker Projects and User Bots. Fablearn Conference Italy 2019 Ancona.


The EduRobot Taxonomy identifies three basic types of education robots: Build, User and Social Robots.  As its title implies, we associate Build Robots with maker-projects where students mainly learn from making a robot.  Students learn with User Robots, like Turtles, by using them to solve problems and engage with invaluable experiences.  However, just as you can make a Turtle robot from a Build Robot, you can utilise some User Robots as platforms for maker-projects.  This paper reviews thirty years of maker-projects involving User Robots.  I’ll present examples from different continents, cultures and social-economic groups.   Although I’ll cite a few research projects, this isn’t a research-driven paper.  It’s chiefly a report on the work of experienced classroom teachers delivering regular lessons to students aged between 4 and 18-years-old.  It explains how they used robots and maker ideas to meet curriculum objectives for students of varying abilities.  Using this evidence, we’ll gain a broad appreciation of classroom maker-projects featuring User Robots and glean a few helpful tips you might find useful.  We’ll also detect the authenticity of this bottom-up approach – it shows what happens when experienced teachers use robots effectively. (more…)

Beyond Coding: Back to the Future with Education Robots

Smart Learning with Educational Robotics

Catlin, D. (2019). Beyond Coding: Back to the Future with Education Robots. In L. Daniela (Ed.), Smart Learning with Educational Robotics: Using Robots to Scaffold Learning Outcomes (pp. 1-44). Cham, Switzerland: Springer Nature Switzerland AG. doi:


Jeannette Wing’s 2013 call for education to make coding a key skill coincided with a boom in new education robots.  Not surprisingly most of these new robots focus on developing student’s computational thinking abilities and programming know-how.  Is that all robots can offer?  To find the answer I’ll explore the history of education robots: specifically the ideas of Seymour Papert.  What we’ll find is something with far more potential than providing learners with a way of developing their coding skills.  And against accepted wisdom, I’ll suggest that as technology develops the need for coders will (in the long-term) dwindle but the power of robots to help educate children for the future will increase.

Online Version: 

Designing Education Robots for Special Needs Education

In 1969, Seymour Papert invented the first educational robot called a Turtle.  It was an addition to the computer language Logo, which he’d designed in 1965 specifically for educating children. Papert did not simply invent some technology, he offered a revolutionary way of educating children. He gave teachers practical tools to realise constructionist develop mental theories in the classroom. We will show that Papert’s work forms a Kuhnian Paradigm which has endured for nearly 50 years and provides the foundation for all work with educational robots. The use of educational robots in special needs education was one of many benefits that grew out of the resulting environment. The early robots designs didn’t pay attention the needs of this area of education. So early researchers used the available robots and started to ask and seek answers to relevant questions. We analyse this historical research and report on their findings. We find modern research simply confirms the original work. We will introduce the Papert Paradigm and show how it empathised with the changing attitudes towards special needs education. We look at a deepening understanding of the technology provided by the Educational Robot Application Principles. And by combining this information with the Universal Design for Learning ideas we find a set of guidelines to help create better robots for special needs education.

Published in Technology, Knowledge and Learning  – Springer Nature B.V. 2018 Full Text Available at

Lines, Roamers and Squares

Oh my! Using floor robots to enhance Hispanic students’s understanding of programming

Teaching programming and coding skills in K-12 classrooms is becoming a part of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs across the United States. Often, these opportunities are available through extra-curricular activities such as Robotics club, math club, STEM club, etc. Increasing STEM opportunities for students who are English language learners, culturally and linguistically diverse learners, and/or students from underserved backgrounds is vital. In a pilot study prior to a larger, grant-funded study on the effects of metacognitive strategy instruction on elementary students’ academic performance, the principal investigator (PI) developed an activity with a corresponding assessment instrument. The PI initially incorporated floor-robots into an activity in two fifth grade science classrooms. Pre/post survey analysis provided encouraging results. To follow up on the initial results, the PI and co-principal investigators (co-PIs) introduced floor-robots into eight additional fourth and fifth grade science classrooms over an additional school year, as well as in an after-school setting, to determine how floor-robots might be used effectively to engage elementary students in STEM learning. The investigators introduced over 257 elementary students to three types of floor-robots, and this provided students with opportunities to have hands-on access to programming and coding robots for specific purposes. Of the 257 students who interacted with the floor-robots, approximately 103 were provided with pre/post surveys on Roamer®, one of the floor-robots. Additional data analysis provided surprising and encouraging results. (more…)

Using Robots with Children with Cerebral Palsy

Using Robots in Special Needs Education

In this excerpt from the Talking Turtle BBC Horizon Television Programme, researchers explain their success with using Turtle Robots with children with cerebral palsy.  This is the first use of robots in special needs education. (more…)

How to Improve Your Student’s Results with Maker Spaces

Construit 2017 International  Conference

13th to 16th July University of Warwick, UK

An account of How to Create an Excellent Educational Environment  with Maker Spaces

This video shows the presentation given by Dave Catlin on the 14th July, 2017.


If you search for definitions for Maker Space you will find words and phrases like enthusiasm, shared interest and technology. It represents a belief in the value of tinkering. Society has always respected the tinkerer and education have longed to bring their spirit to the classroom. Is it possible? How would you do it? This paper is an account of a school and a teacher who succeeding in achieving these goals. It records how he answered these questions and more importantly, how he created a Maker Space which helped deliver the curriculum, improve student test scores without suffocating the Maker Space spirit of adventure.


The Mini-Drones: New Tools to Learn Programming and Data Processing

La nouvelle revue de l’adaptation et de la scolarisation

The new 2017 programs concerning primary school and middle school clearly mention computer algorithms and computer coding. We have seen that these two skills can be learned by programming certain mini-drones. This approach makes it possible to initiate all pupils, including those with special educational needs, not only into algorithms and computer coding, but also into other basic skills. (more…)

Seymour Papert on Logo

Seymour Papert Brief Lessons on Logo and Turtle Geometry

In 1986 Seymour Papert, the “father of Logo,” collaborated with award-winning film maker William Schwartz and Elizabeth Schwartz, who was Assistant Superintendent of the Ladue, Missouri School District, to produce Seymour Papert On Logo.


The History of Logo

Cynthia Solomon Recalls the History of Logo.

At the Constructionism Conference  2016, Bangkok, Thailand, Cynthia Solomon received a Lifetime Achievement Award.  As one of the people involved from the start Cynthia  took the opportunity to talk about the history of this remarkable project.  This is a video of her presentation.


The Valiant Turtle was the Best in the World: Its Secrets Revealed

The Most Successful Logo Turtle in Educational Robotics

In 1983 a teacher and aspiring journalist Anth Ginn introduced me to the ideas of Seymour Papert and Turtle Robots.  I loved it and set out to design my first educational robot.  I was a mechanical engineer working on different contracts so I knew large numbers of talented people.  I soon got a team together: Dave Ewins to do the electronics, Graham Carpenter for the software and Peter Pavlitski who organised the production.  The result was the Valiant Turtle.  The British Design Council included it their book the Best of British Design and I soon found out that education was how I wanted to spend my working life.  We sold the last Turtle in about 2010 (we could not get the parts to make them anymore).  A few days ago I came across Simon’s blog.  He kindly let me add it to our records.  I hope you find it interesting – Dave Catlin. (more…)