So often we hear about technology disrupting play and stunting or being less effective than “traditional” types of education. Rarely do we see technology blending in with education and children’s play and really supporting child development and learning.
This is one exception.
A school in Australia that works with autistic kids has adopted several Sphero robots (like BB8 from Star Wars), and has incorporated Sphero into both indoor and outdoor play.
Not only is it robust enough to be taken outside and played with alongside building blocks, it can also be used to teach coding away from a basic screen. “For kids with autism … around 90% of the information processed is what they can see. They’re very visual learners,” he said.
It can also help kids feel more comfortable in the school environment. Smith explained how some young students, around six and seven years old, often find it stressful to leave their classroom and travel to other parts of the school.”Early on, we found that if we let them guide Sphero: ‘Let’s take Sphero for a little adventure around the school,’ they would actually, with no trouble, go into the assembly or sport hall if they had Sphero with them,” he said. “It’s almost like they were brave and overcame their anxieties for the sake of showing Sphero.”
Sphero is robust enough that it can be used for paint projects, or just exploring in the dirt.
Just like Christopher Robin and his Winnie the Pooh, being able to use a proxy like Sphero to help explore the world can be very powerful and enabling for kids of all abilities, but especially kids on the autism spectrum.