Educational robotics to help reduce the gender gap in computational thinking

The GREAT research group has analysed the digital competence of students of Early Childhood and Primary Education.

The research group “Ensenyament, aprenentatge i tecnologia” [Teaching, learning and technology] (GREAT) of the Universitat Jaume I has designed and implemented a training process in educational robotics to reduce the gender gap in computational thinking of the students of Early Childhood and Primary Education. The conclusions of this UJI research on digital competence have been published in the Journal of Information Technology Education: Innovations in Practice.

grupo investigación UJIResearchers from the Universitat Jaume I (UJI) have analysed the digital competence and the computational thinking of students of Early Childhood and Primary Education at this academic entity and have detected “the existence of a gender gap in these fundamental subjects in the digital environment because girls tend to perceive themselves with less skills in digital tools than boys, especially in the technological dimension”, says Francesc Esteve, lecturer of Didactics and School Organisation, and member of the GREAT group. On the contrary, no differences were found between men and women in relation to skills linked to computer learning and programming, as indicated by the results published in the International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning.

In view of this self-perception of future female teachers of Early Childhood and Primary Education to be less digitally competent, GREAT members implemented a pedagogical programme in educational robotics in these undergraduate studies. And, as this study reveals, “the female students’ computer thinking increased,” says Esteve.

EDUCATIONAL INNOVATION AND STEM

In fact, the GREAT group, coordinated by the lecturer of the Department of Pedagogy and Didactics of Social Sciences, Language and Literature, Jordi Adell, is working on a new project of the Educational Innovation Group (GIE) in Educational Robotics and Computational Thinking of the UJI (EduBot) for the design of several training actions that “begin to break this type of stereotypes and that differentiated perception and, ultimately, to work for gender equality. This initiative will focus on educational robotics as an instrument to overcome the gender gap and will be led by researchers María Ángeles Llopis and Gracia Valdeolivas.

The study developed by the researchers and lecturers Francesc Esteve, Maria Ángeles Llopis and Jordi Adell on digital competence also provides valuable knowledge to promote STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) among girls and, in this way, encourage their vocation for technology-related studies.

The Teaching, Learning and Technology Group (GREAT) formally began its activity in the 2016-2017 academic year and focuses its projects on the area of educational technology, digital competence, teacher training and the design and assessment of digital tools and resources. It is coordinated by lecturer Jordi Adell, from the Area of Didactics and School Organisation of the Department of Pedagogy and Didactics of Social Sciences, Language and Literature at the Universitat Jaume I, who is also Director of the Centre for Education and New Technologies (CENT).

Francesc Esteve, lecturer and researcher of the GREAT group and main author of both studies, focuses his research on the analysis of digital competence and teacher training, and on the study of the design-based research (DBR) methodology. He has directed different research works on educational robotics, MOOC, mobile learning or social networks. He is also a Rector’s Commissioner for the Coordination of the Rector’s Bureau and Digital Promotion.

 

Esteve, F., Adell, J., Llopis, M.A., Valdeolivas, G. & Pacheco, J. (2019). The Development of Computational Thinking in Student Teachers through an Intervention with Educational Robotics. Journal of Information Technology Education: Innovations in Practice, 18, 139-152.

https://doi.org/10.28945/4442

Esteve-Mi, F., Llopis, M.A. & Adell, J. (2020). Digital Competence and Computational Thinking of Student TeachersInternational Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning (iJET), 15(2).

https://online-journals.org/index.php/i-jet/article/view/11588