Educational Robots and Computational Thinking

  • Published July 22, 2014
  • By Dave Catlin and Dr John Woollard
  • Download PDF

Catlin, D. and Woollard, J.  (2014) Educational Robots and Computational Thinking,  TRTWR & RIE (Teaching Robotics and the Teaching with Robotics and Robotics in Education) International Workshop 2014, Padua, Italy


In 1969 Seymour Papert developed the idea of Logo programming and Turtle robots. His thesis was that people learn according to the mental models available to them. He envisioned the potential of the computer to make students active learners, constructors of their own knowledge through the process of programming. The floor Turtles are devices the students can program and use to explore ideas and the world around them. The Logo approach was not simply writing code, it was about developing a student’s thinking skills, problem solving and other sustainable learning traits. A 2006 seminal paper by Jeannette Wing prompted renewed interest in what is now called computational thinking. This paper examines this new perspective and how they relate to the theory and practical use of Turtle type educational robots.

Educational-Robots-and-Computational-Thinking. from Dave Catlin on Vimeo.

2 Responses to “Educational Robots and Computational Thinking”

  1. Eder Coelho Paula Says:

    Dear Mr. Dave Catlin,

    I was at the TRTWR 2014, in Padova, Italy, as a listener and at the time I, unfortunatelly, did not have the opportunity to read your article or make you a question. I got curious about your opinions on computational thinking and robotics since I had the opportunity to read your article a month later. I can tell you that your article, in my opinion, is now a seminal reading too for the researchers looking forward the issue of computational thinking and its relationship with educational robotics. For me, while Syan Bayne (2013) is concerned about the epistemological issue of TEL (Technology Enhancing Learning) and attempts to aware us about the issue on concepts such as computational thinking and TEL, your article throw light on the relationship of robotics and computational thinking and how this relationship can help educational systems to build new ways to learn, tools and teacer education on this area.

    I am a PhD student in education and I started to read more about the educational robotics history a couple of months ago and I was wondering if you could, please, tell me your opinion about how successful was educational robotics after-school programs in USA on their attempt to bring students to computational science or STEM related areas to work and study.

    Again, thank you very much for your time.
    Best regards.

    Eder Coelho Paula
    PhD student in Education
    The University of Edinburgh

  2. Dave Catlin Says:

    Hi Eder,

    First you should look at the A History of Turtle Robots. I have more to add to the article, but it is a start.

    As far as after school programmes are concerned I only have my own experience. We have done a long project in an after school programme. We found that students enjoyed what were doing, but they also were tired (so were the teachers). The same students did not always turn up. It was also a lot more casual. Having said that the students enjoyed it, were engaged, but not always on task and they did seem to learn a few things. I think we learnt more about how to make after school projects more useful.

You have to log in to Comment.