PopBots: Designing an Artificial Intelligence Curriculum for Early Childhood Education
PopBots is a hands-on toolkit and curriculum designed to help young children learn about artificial intelligence (AI) by building, programming, training, and interacting with a social robot. Today’s children encounter AI in the forms of smart toys and computationally curated educational and entertainment content. However, children have not yet been empowered to understand or create with this technology. Existing computational thinking platforms have made ideas like sequencing and conditionals accessible to young learners. Going beyond this, we seek to make AI concepts accessible. We designed PopBots to address the specific learning needs of children ages four to seven by adapting constructionist ideas into an AI curriculum. This paper describes how we designed the curriculum and evaluated its effectiveness with 80 Pre-K and Kindergarten children. We found that the use of a social robot as a learning companion and programmable artifact was effective in helping young children grasp AI concepts. We also identified teaching approaches that had the greatest impact on student’s learning. Based on these, we make recommendations for future modules and iterations for the PopBots platform.