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Renewing Hands-on  Psycho-pedagogical   Practices  with  Smart  Objects  Technology a

Orazio Miglinoa,, Raffaele Di Fuccioa, Angelo Rega b, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Istituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della Cognizione – Rome, Italy b Università di  Napoli  “Federico  II”,  Italy

Preface Since their birth and maybe even before, children start learning about the world around them. Day by day they can count on wider sensory-motor functions that open to their cognitive development new ways. In the period of their life that goes from few months to 3-4 years hands are fundamental in conveying knowledge. A child points something, he/she handles, touches, tastes and manipulates while understanding an object features and functions. This every day observations reflect in eminent psychologists perspectives, consider for example Piaget (1926; 1936), Papert (1993), Bruner (1990) who recognize a fundamental role to manipulative activities for psychological development and cognitive representations birth. Also Vygotsky, the other giant father of cognitive development theory, believed that interaction with environment was an important way a child may learn, not the only one indeed. In his opinion, cognitive development relies on input from other people as well, thus underlying the importance of historical and cultural context children live in. Of course, adult humans do not learn only by pointing, reaching, touching and manipulating. During the cognitive development and learning processes, the "concrete" manipulative acts are gradually embedded and represented in our neurocognitive structures where they are performed as "simulated" actions (symbolic acts) in a virtual (mind) space (see Newcombe abd Shipley, in press). But the use of hands (or more in general, the body) coupled with a cognitive representation of the physical space are the latent and essential psychological biases of our learning/developmental processes. They strongly emerge when the environmental conditions invite us to use them. These biases are, probably, the main reasons why we think about Internet as a geometrical (virtual) space or why the (computer) "mouses" and the "touch screens" are immediately intuitive. In fact, the mouse extends our "pointing" and  “reaching”   actions in a computer screen graphic space and the current "touch screen" technology allows us to manipulate digital virtual objects. Recently, new technologies are candidates to enhance our attitude to know by manipulating. Basically, they are composed by common objects equipped with sensors and connected in wireless mode with a remote computer. Users enter in this sort of Internet of Things and interact with the smart objects through new interfaces (glasses, gloves, visors, etc.)

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or by traditional manipulation interpreted by (sophisticated) computer programs (see for example handwriting recognition systems). We think that the new chances offered by the Smart Objects technology could produce innovative learning/teaching environments to enhance neuro-cognitive development especially in training context. Moreover, with these tools we could recover traditional and well known psycho-pedagogical practices that are not widely and massively applied because of their expensiveness. For example, it is the case of educational materials like Logic Blocks or Teaching Tiles. These are manipulative learning environments designed to teach a wide range of subjects (mathematics, geometry, languages, geography, etc.) and abilities (or soft skills) (problem solving, creative thinking, cooperative behaviour, etc.) for children aged from 3 and 10. Unfortunately, this type of material can be used individually or in small groups of students (3-4 children maximum) and requires a constant supervision by an adult (teachers, parents, educators, etc.). This is a strong constrain for their massive utilization. As said above, we think that the emerging field of smart technologies (software and hardware) could be addressed to overcome this constrain and exploit the huge potential lying in these materials/practice. This book aims to introduce the general theme of developing and using innovative teaching/learning environments based on the harmonic integration of (a) Referring to a well-known cognitive theoretical perspective; (b) recovering traditional psychopedagogical practices, etc. (i.e. logical blocks, teaching tiles, handwriting); (c) applying Smart Technologies to enhance the psycho-pedagogical practices (i.e. hardware side: RFID/NFC sensors, augmented reality systems, intelligent interfaces, etc.; software side: artificial intelligence systems to enhance the learning-teaching experiences). The book is divided-up in two parts. The first part delineates the state the art of the overall field (theoretical perspectives, hand-on educational practices, smart technologies applied to education), the second part will describe the Block-Magic methodology-technology as a concrete and recent case of study. More in detail the first part reports the state of the art about theoretical perspective on learning and cognitive development that inspire hands-on educational practices. Moreover we will describe some relevant examples of hands-on educational practices, underlying their specific features, strengths and drawbacks and how they are related with the theories and methods describes in the first section. Finally, we will go a step further introducing tangible devices and smart technologies that allow people to interact with digital information through the physical environment (i.e. tangible user interface). Also in this case attention will be devoted to analyse these examples according to the proposed theoretical framework. The part II will widely describe a case study, the Block-Magic methodology . What is Block Magic? Why is it different from others platforms? What does it allow to do in training /educational context? Why is it effective? These questions will receive a reply through the description of concrete examples and applications by the BlockMagic Consortium, in the framework of EU funded research project. Many book authors are members of the Block-Magic consortium (www.blockmagic.eu) that has developed learning/teaching materials and activities according to the above guidelines.

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TABLE OF CONTENT Part I Hands-On Educational Practices: Theories, Traditional Approaches and New Technologies Chapter 1

Authors

Theoretical perspectives of Hands-On educational Practices: from Vygostsky and Piaget to Embodiment Cognition ………...6 Orazio Miglino & Luigia Simona Sica

In this  chapter  the  main  theories  related  to  the  development  of  cognition  will  be  discussed,   starting   from   psychological   discussion   up   to   theories   application   to   training,   pedagogical   and  formation  sciences  issues.

Chapter 2

Structured and unstructured materials: methodology and description of activities………………………………….…...15

Authors

Angelo Rega, Franco Rubinacci, Luigia Simona Sica, Maria Villani

Here we describe some relevant examples of structured didactic materials such as logical blocks, teaching tiles or wide spread practice as handwriting, underlying their specific features, strengths and drawbacks and how they are related with the theories and methods describes in the first section. Chapter 3 Authors

Hands-on educational practices and Technologies…….27 Andrea Di Ferdinando, Carlo Ricci, Massimiliano Schembri

In this chapter we be describe the main characteristics of the technological field to enhance manipulation. In this part the state of the art about Technologies applied to manipulative learning will be described.

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Part II The Block-Magic project: a case of study Chapter 4

Methodology and Technology in Block-Magic………….….36

Authors

Mario Barajas, Anna Trifonova

In this chapter the authors will present the details of the Block Magic project starting from the first concept to its evolution, describing the platform main features.

Chapter 5

Transcultural experiences of Block-Magic methodology: observations in Greece, Germany and Spain………..……….…..49

Authors

Dimitra Dimitrakopoulou, Jasmin Kadel , Anna Bruesehaber, Marlen Belafi, Mario Barajas , Anna Trifonova

In this chapters the methodology developed for learning and teaching with RFID Smart Objects will be discussed considering all the related opportunities and the future challenges. Chapter 6

Authors

Block Magic methodology for Teaching/Learning at Children with Special Needs…………………………………..……….…..77 Patrizia Ceccarani, Carlo Ricci

In this chapter the experience of Block Magic Platform with children with special needs will be investigated and reported. In this part the results in these trials will be described in detail.

Chapter 7

Conclusions and future directions ……………………………..82

Authors

Book editors (Miglino, O., Di Fuccio, R.)

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Part I Hands-On Educational Practices: Theories, Traditional Approaches and New Technologies

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Theoretical perspectives  of  Hands-On   educational  Practices:  from  Vygostsky  and   Piaget  to  Embodiment  Cognition a

Orazio MIGLINOa, and Luigia Simona SICA b Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Istituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della Cognizione – Rome, Italy b Dipartimento di  Studi  Umanistici  Università  di  Napoli  “Federico  II”- Napoli, Italy Abstract. In this chapter the main theories related to the development of cognition will be discussed, starting from psychological discussion up to theories application to training, pedagogical and formation sciences issues. Keywords. Hands-on Practices, Embodiment Cognition, ICT tools for learning, Logic Blocks, learning process, Associative Learning, Cognitive Perspective, Smart Objects

Introduction Since their birth and maybe even before, children start learning about the world around them. Day by day they can count on wider sensory-motor functions that open to their cognitive development new ways. In the period of their life that goes from few months to 3-4 years hands are fundamental in conveying knowledge. A child points something, he/she handles, touches, tastes and manipulates while understanding an object features and functions. This every day observations reflect in eminent psychologists perspectives, consider for example Piaget (1926; 1936), Papert (1993), Bruner (1990) who recognize a fundamental role to manipulative activities for psychological development and cognitive representations birth. Also Vygotsky, the other giant father of cognitive development theory, believed that interaction with environment was an important way a child could learn, not the only one indeed. In his opinion, cognitive development relies on input from other people as well, thus underlying the importance of historical and cultural context children live in. Of course, adult humans do not learn only by pointing, reaching, touching and manipulating. During the cognitive development and learning processes, the "concrete" manipulative acts are gradually embedded and represented in our neuro-cognitive structures where they are performed as "simulated" actions (symbolic acts) in a virtual (mind) space (see Newcombe and Shipley, in press). But the use of hands (or more in general, the body) coupled with a cognitive representation of the physical space is the latent and essential psychological biases of our learning/developmental processes. They strongly emerge when the environmental conditions invite us to use them. These biases are, probably, the main reasons why we think about Internet as a geometrical (virtual) space or why the (computer) "mouse" and the "touch screens" are immediately intuitive. In fact, the mouse extends our

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"pointing" and “reaching” actions  in  a  computer  screen  graphic  space  and  the  current   "touch screen" technology allows us to manipulate digital virtual objects. Recently, new technologies are candidates to enhance our attitude to know by manipulating. Basically, common objects equipped with sensors and connected in wireless mode with a remote computer compose them. Users enter in this sort of Internet of Things and interact with the smart objects through new interfaces (glasses, gloves, visors, etc.) or by traditional manipulation interpreted by (sophisticated) computer programs (see for example handwriting recognition systems). We think that the new chances offered by the Smart Objects technology could produce innovative learning/teaching environments to enhance neuro-cognitive development especially in training context. Moreover, with these tools we could recover traditional and well-known psycho-pedagogical practices that are not widely and massively applied because of their expensiveness. For example, it is the case of educational materials like Logic Blocks or Teaching Tiles. These are manipulative learning environments designed to teach a wide range of subjects (mathematics, geometry, languages, geography, etc.) and abilities (or soft skills) (problem solving, creative thinking, cooperative behaviour, etc.) for children aged from 3 and 10. Unfortunately, this type of material can be used individually or in small groups of students (3-4 children maximum) and requires a constant supervision by an adult (teachers, parents, educators, etc.). This is a strong constrain for their massive utilization. As said above, we think that the emerging field of smart technologies (software and hardware) could be addressed to overcome this constrain and exploit the huge potential lying in these materials/practice. The aim of this chapter is to explore the principal approaches to the learning process from the cognitive one to the embodied cognition trough the constructivism.

1. The mean of learning: general principles of the learning process The learning process could be defined as an enduring and stable change in the individual potential behaviour, as a result of practice or experience (Fig. 1). Learning occurs throughout life in animals, and learned behaviour accounts for a large proportion of all behaviour in the higher animals, especially in humans. In the latter the learning process is strictly linked to the development in cognitive, affective and social terms and it also implies the human skill of give sense, coherence and meaning to the experience. The complexity of this process could be evident for the reader when he/she thinks about the fact that everyone is constantly subject to a number of information from context that could become learning materials, but actually the most part of them disappears in the mental life of individuals. The question is: what is that could make memorable such things and not others? From a psychological perspective, the key-points for the learning process (remember the definition at the beginning of paragraph) are three: 1 incoming of a change in the individual; 2 change resulting from experience; 3 behavioural change is “potential” and  it  not  have  to  be  actual.

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Figure 1. What is learning?

Furthermore, Gagné emphasizes that learning is a change in attitudes or human capacity, which can be stored and which cannot be simply attributed to the process of growth. This change is manifested as a change in behaviour (Gagné, 1973). In a more practical view, learning "programming is not seen simply as a technological development incorporating previously established learning principles, but rather as one particular form of the ordering of stimulus and response events designed to bring  about  productive  learning…    [If]  one  wants  to  investigate  the  effects  of  an   experimental treatment on the behaviour of individuals or groups who start from the same point, he would be well advised to measure and map out for each individual the learning sets relevant to the experimental task" (Gagné, 1962, 355). Even the practical aspect of the teaching/learning process depends on the peculiar didactic topics, it is possible to underline a number of common steps that Gagné (1974) have focalized in order to describe the events of the learning process. The Author has broken down the process into a sequence of elementary tasks or behavioural objectives that were presented to the learner who was given immediate feedback on their responses (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. Basic principles of the learning process (Gagnè, 1974)

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How to achieve these principles, how promote and stimulate the learning are issues variously interpreted in the psychological literature. Here we report three approaches that have given interpretative frameworks and operational guidelines also important in educational psychology and pedagogy: the behaviourist, cognitive and embodiment cognition approaches. These three approaches are continuing (together with elements of continuity and discontinuity) along a continuum that leads to the notions of embodied cognition that have provided the starting point of the logic of Magic Block project referred to in this volume.

2. A Behaviourist Perspective: the Associative Learning According to the behaviourist approach (Skinner, 1953), learning is seen in terms of connections (associations) between stimulus (or stimulus-situation) and answer and between answer and reinforcement. Learning means that behaviour (objectively observable) could be modified by reinforcements that in turn could produce conditioning (Pavlov, 1902) or modelling (Skinner, 1953) answers. In this context, the environment is really important, because only if it is structured properly it can produce learning.

Figure 3. Operant conditioning (Skinner, 1969)

The pedagogy based on associative principles involves identifying component learning competences, sequencing these in terms of complexity, providing clear tasks and immediate  feedback  and  then  adjusting  the  sequence  according  to  the  learner’s   performance. The assumption is that learning is a matter of building on earlier behaviours or a quantitative increase where existing knowledge and procedures were merely added to.

3. A Cognitive Perspective: Piaget, Vygotsky e Bruner and the constructivist approach Since the 50th and 60th, with the Gestalt Psychology and the contribution of Tolmen and Piaget, psychologists have focused on the cognitive process of the learning. Unlike behaviourist, they explored the content of the thought, trying to describe the mental events and their mechanisms.

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In the cognitive perspective the learning does not occur through sum of fragmented activities, but through the assessment and cognition of relationships, meanings, situations. In this case we can speak of cognitive or complex learning. Furthermore, the solution of a problem is not from trial and error, but from the understanding of the structure. Cognitive learning therefore involves higher mental functions such as attention, perception, memory, intelligence and general cognitive processes proper to human: the change is not only in the behaviour, but is also in the internal structures and processes, which in turn act on individual behaviour. Such development can arise from active thoughtful participation whereby learning arises from the interaction of new experiences with existing schema. The central issue is related to how we represent knowledge and develop our concepts and understandings. According to McKendry (2006), we learn as a result of the interaction between new experiences and existing structures for understanding that have already been created. Cognitivist authors have formulated some of the most relevant theories in educational and  developmental  psychology.  We’ll  focalize  few  of  these,  which  have   direct implication on our discourse on learning. 3.1. Piaget: the  centrality  of  “doing” According to the cognitive perspective, Piaget (1936, 1945, 1957) one of the most relevant developmental psychologist, has explored the process by which child develop their knowledge of world in cognitive terms. Using a clinical –critical approach of study and by observing for a long time his children, Piaget came to the conclusion that two cognitive processes are responsible for the human development: assimilation and accommodation. These processes are on basis of the learning process and define develop of child in cognitive terms. The first one (assimilation) refers to the acquisition of an object /event in previous cognitive or behavioural schema; the second one (accommodation) refers to the change of schema in order to assume new events/objects. The two processes alternate in order to achieve a dynamic equilibrium. In other words, the learning is based on the equilibrium between assimilation and accommodation and it is based on the integration of new information in pre-existent cognitive structures. The development of these structures is innate and fixed (it is organized in subsequent steps/stages). The learning, in this perspective, develops with the doing. The educational context could only balance itself with the developmental stage of the child in order to give the right possibility of doing to learn. 3.2. Vygotsky: the potential development and the role of social context According  to  traditional  authors,  Piaget’s  approach  could  be  seen  in  opposition  to  the   Vygotzsky’s   conception   of learning. The key-point of this opposition is the role of context. From the Piagetian point of view, the social and cultural context does not have an important role in the development of the learning, meanwhile from the Vygotskyan point of view the context promotes learning and development of cognition. According to Vygotsky (1978), the cognitive development of child comes from the interaction between person and social context. More specifically, individual interiorize the cognitive functions trough the language that gives shape to interaction. The social context (or the significant others surrounding individual) could help, support and facilitate the learning process and in particular it could impact on the Zone of Proximal

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Development (ZPD). This latter is a cognitive area in which the child could go beyond his/her current level of knowledge and development trough the support of a competent adult (stimulus). In sum, the higher mental processes being a function of and created through socially meaningful mediated activity. From a pedagogical point of view, the teacher has to encourage learners to build their own mental structures through interacting with an environment. Vygotsky (1978) have introduced  the   notion  of  ‘scaffolding’  to  suggest  that   an  apprentice   role is taken by the learner who, with the assistance of someone more experienced, can achieve something they would be otherwise be unable to. The role of the teacher as scaffolder involves guiding students towards activities that they are likely to find engaging and from which they will learn. However, rather than playing a didactic role, the teacher may encourage students to think for themselves and raise issues and questions in relation to the activity and to identify problems which they can face and solve. In brief, pedagogy based on constructivist approach has the subsequent principles: creating an environment in which learners can become actively involved; setting up activities that encourage experimentation and discovery; activities that are interactive and studentcentred; locating learning within the ZPD; scaffolding through encouragement and support for raising questions and reflecting on principles. 3.3. Bruner: the act of discovery Building on the Piaget and Vygotsky theories, Bruner (1961) have expanded both the active involvement of learner (Piaget) and social context (Vygotsky) roles and he proposed a cultural approach to learning process and cognitive development. According to Bruner (1973; Bruner & Anglin, 1973), the learning is a complex activity in which three process interact: 1 acquisition of information; 2 transformation/manipulation of these information in a new form helpful for the problem solving; 3 check and control of the efficacy of this transformation. The information modification (2) is linked to three representational methods that depend on the culture and the maturation of individual. The three methods are (Bruner, Goodnow, & Austin, 1965): the Action system, the Iconic System and the Symbolic System. From an ontological point of view, the learning of child is divided in four stages: 1 ability of acquisition; 2 reflexivity; 3 sharing; 4 culture. Extending the importance of social context and language underlined by Vygotsky, Bruner emphasizes the role of culture in human development. The culture is a collective and shared interpretation of reality and the individual mind has an interpersonal nature. The learning is an interpersonal   and   relational   activity   strictly   linked   to   the   “where   and   how”   of   the   knowledge; in other words the learning is  a  “situated cognitive action”  (Brown,  1989).   “The   active   participation   in   the   learning   process   by   the   child   might   result   in   the   following hypothesized benefits: an increase in intellectual potency so as to make the acquired information more readily viable in problem solving, the action of the learning activities in terms of the intrinsic reward of discovery itself (as contrasted with the drive-reduction model of learning), learning the heuristics of discovery, and making material more readily accessible  in  memory”  (Bruner,  1961).

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Figure 4. The learning process from a cognitive perspective.

The Bruner intuitions have given important stimulus to cognitive authors such as Papert and Jonassen (1999), which have emphasized the active role of person in the comprehension of experience using cultural and contextual resources. Important concepts of  the  constructivist  approach  such  as  “discovery  learning”  (Papert  &  Harel,   1991)   and   “meaningful   learning”   (Jonassen,   1996)   are   based   on   Bruner   conceptualization of culture and manipulation.

4. Situated Learning: the role of Embodiment As we have seen, the activity has a central role in the process of learning: it is a core process in Piaget theory, is fundamental in Bruner approach and has a transformative power if supported by external stimuli for Vygotsky. In particular, the concept of action becomes central for the situated learning theories (Levine & Resnick, 1993; Clancey, 1997). These latter belong to a theoretical framework in which authors emphasise socio-cultural aspects of learning and cognition. The idea is that the knower cannot be separated from the known; knowledge and learning are the results of social activity in context (Barab & Plucker, 2002; Greeno, 1998). Therefore, situated learning includes participation as   a   key   concept;;   participation   could   be   seen   as   ‘being   a   part’   with   contextualisation in learning regarded as critical. Teaching strategies based upon participation can encourage collaboration amongst learners (McMahon, 1997). In this way, learners can become part of the community. In sum, the learning could be described in terms of activity and participation in a community of practice. In this framework (as well as in the previous cognitive theories) the concept of activity defines a cognitive process in somehow detached from the body. In the traditional vision of learning process the attention on the complexity of the person was simplified focusing on the mind in terms of cognitive processes. However the body plays a fundamental role in the interaction between person and context and it is one of the first instruments used to know the world (e.g. see sensorimotor stage in the Piagetian theory). In a 90th theorization (Galperin, 1992) the role of boy has been retrieved. According to Galperin, the mental object-oriented activity is the result of initially materialised object-oriented activity. Or, in other words, the physical manipulation of objects represents the basis of human  thought.  Rambush  and  Ziemke  (2005)  identify  in  Galperin’s  approach  a  bridge between situated learning and embodied cognition research. The basic idea of the latter approach is that cognition is a continuous process with changing boundaries and much more than what takes place within the individual mind. This idea has been considered by an increasing number of scientists in various areas of research (e.g. Rizzolatti et al, 2002 for neurosciences; Clark, 1997 for philosophy).

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As Rambush  and  Ziemke  argued  “the  embodied  cognition  is  in  many  aspect  a  very   social process, and that embodied social process such as mimicry and imitation are significant for social relations as they help people connect, making it possible for them to   communicate   and   to   understand   each   other”   (2005, p. 1805). For example, Roth (2002) demonstrated that gestures not only reflect learning, but also contribute to it, serving not only to communicate content to a public, but also to help the speaker think making thing more clear and understandable.

5. CAI, LOGO and Smart Objects: making connections between technology and learning Learning theories have their counterpart in the pedagogical practices and in learning technology. Every time has his technologies and the development of educational practices is reciprocally linked to the advancement of technology. In this respect, although teaching machines may be historical artefacts, theoretical perspectives have stimulated technological applications (Jessell, 2011). Behaviourist principles underlie methods such as Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI) in which rapid feedback  is  given  on  the  correctness  of  the  learner’s  response  (e.g.  mathematical   routines presented as a game with extrinsic rewards). Cognitive principles underlie methods such as LOGO (Papert, 1970, 1980) a programming language created as the first children's toys with built-in computation. “Children   might  come   to   want  to  learn  it  because  they   would  use  it  in  building  these   models. And if they did want to learn it they would, even if teaching were poor or possibly nonexistent. Moreover, since one of the reasons for poor teaching is that teachers do not enjoy teaching reluctant children, it is not implausible that teaching would become better as well as becoming less necessary. So changes in the opportunities for construction could in principle lead to deeper changes in the learning of mathematics than changes in knowledge about instruction or any amount of "teacher-proof" computer-aided   instruction”   (Papert   &   Harel,   1991).   Logo   and   Lego/Logo constitute examples of how technology can provide new ways to learn. More recently the progress of technology produced Smart Objects (everyday objects augmented with computational services; Kallman & Thalmann, 1998) that could have a central role in educational psychology based on both situated learning and embodied cognition principles. In addition, mobile devices that are mainly used for communication, entertainment, and as electronic assistants may be used as intermediaries between us and the smart objects in our surroundings for their increasing computational, storage, communicational and multimedia capabilities (de Ipiña, Vázquez, García, Fernández, & García, 2005).

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Figure 5. Environment to Mobile Intelligent Interaction applets (from de Ipiña et al., 2005, 213)

Starting from the innovation in the interaction between individual and environment offered by the Smart Objects technology, our idea is that we could produce innovative learning/teaching environments (according to constructivist learning theories and extant pedagogical practices) to enhance neuro-cognitive development especially in training context. This proposal will discuss in detail in the next chapters.

References [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

J. Bruner, The Process of Education, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press., 1960. J. Bruner, Toward a Theory of Instruction, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press., 1966. J. Bruner, Going Beyond the Information Given, New York: Norton.., 1973. J. Bruner, Child's Talk: Learning to Use Language, New York: Norton.., 1983. J. Bruner, Actual Minds, Possible Worlds, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press., 1986. J. Bruner, Acts of Meaning, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press., 1990. J. Bruner, J. Goodnow, A. Austin, A Study of Thinking, New York: Wiley., 1956. J. Bruner, The act of discovery. Harvard Educational Review, Vol 31, (1961), 21-32. R. M.Gagné,. The acquisition of knowledge. Psychological Review, Vol 69 (4), July, (1962) 355-365. doi: 10.1037/h0042650 [10] D.H. Jonassen, T. C. Reeves,. Learning with technology: Using computers as cognitive tools. In D.H. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of research for educational. Columbus, OH: Merrill/Prentice-Hall, 1996 [11] S. Papert, Teaching children thinking (AI Memo No.247 and Logo Memo No. 2). Cambridge, MA: MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, 1970. [12] M. Kallman, D. Thalmann: Modeling Objects for Interaction Tasks, Proc. Eurographics Workshop on Animation and Simulation, Springer, (1998), pp.73-86 [13] Papert, S.. Mindstorms. New York: Basic Books., 1980. [14] Papert, S. & Harel, I.. Situating Constructionism. Ablex Publishing Corporation: 193-206. 1991 [15] Piaget, J. Origins of intelligence in the child. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1936 [16] Piaget, J., Play, dreams and imitation in childhood. London: Heinemann.1945 [17] Piaget, J.. Construction of reality in the child. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.1957 [18] Piaget, J. and B. Inhelder . A Child's Conception of Space (F. J. Langdon & J. L. Lunzer, Trans.). New York: Norton (Original work published 1948)University Press. 1967

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Structured and  unstructured  materials:   methodology  and  description  of  activities a

Angelo REGAa, Franco RUBINACCIa , Luigia Simona SICAa , Maria VILLANIb Dipartimento di  Studi  Umanistici  Università  di  Napoli  “Federico  II”- Napoli, Italy b Neapolisanit srl - Department of autism and childhood psychosis, Italy Abstract. Here we describe some relevant examples of structured didactic materials such as logical blocks, teaching tiles or wide spread practice as handwriting, underlying their specific features, strengths and drawbacks and how they are related with the theories and methods describes in the first section. Keywords. Montessori, learning games, learning materials, Learning Attributes, logic blocks,

Introduction Starting from the theoretical frameworks described in the chapter one, a number of educational and pedagogical approaches and materials have been ideated. These approaches have the role of translate in practice the guidelines defined by the theorist of psychology and pedagogy. They have also the role of experimenting and testing their effects on child and youth in terms of learning increase and effectiveness. In fact, while Piaget, Bruner, Vygotsky, Kolb, among others cited before, are often recognized as the  foundation  of  the  “active”  lessons,  a  careful  exploration  of  the  concepts  proposed   by these educational theorists reveals that these theorists meant much more by active learning than providing hands-on activity, encouraging class participation, or having students move around the room. According to these theorists, active learning or discovery learning moves from experience to learning and not the other way around (Cooperstein & Kocevar-Weidinger, 2004). Promoting the child participation and experience in the educational process, the mentioned theorists underline the centrality of child in the teaching/learning process, which   was   adopetd   in   practice   from   the   American   and   European   “new   schools”   approach at the end of the nineteenth century: the new schools were places where education is no longer viewed as a "transmission of an objective knowledge", but as "the formation of an independent personality." The latter aim is reaching through four features of the pedagogic activism (Ferriere, 1922): 1. puero-centrism (centrality of childhood); 2. attention to the specific psychological nature of the student; 3. value of "doing" for learning (centrality of the game, manual activities, group work, etc.); 4. anti-authoritarianism (new relationship between educator and learner).

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1. The Montessori approach: teaching relationship and materials exploration Among the exponents of European scientific activism, Montessori has provided one of the most significant contribution to the development of new psycho-pedagogical practices. The Montessori teacher works with the hope that each individual is called by nature to fulfil his/her psychological evolution, according to a preordained design, as long as  he  lives  in  an  environment  suited  to  the  shape  of  his  work.  The  teacher  doesn’t   judge the results achieved by the child, but he/her analyses the causes involved in development. For these reasons, he is close to the child, who requires his presence, sitting next to him, talking to him softly and briefly, without stretching over him with body and speech. According to Montessori model, the teacher becomes a significant figure of mediation between the learner and the material used for it. The educational method, in fact, provides a gradual and progressive use of materials, through which the child begins to perform activities such as: inserting geometric shapes in the spaces of the same shape, composing the first words with the use of letters, and more others. The materials are the instrument through which the child carries on his senses and intelligence, freely drawn to the secret information and unexplored solutions that they contain. The materials are structured to support the thought, as an extension of the ideas. The child works with his hands and mind in complete independence, but only in the freedom of choice and expression of the instrument acquires value. Children, through the manipulation of materials, construct new knowledge, explore and choose strategies to master new knowledge and skills, and they experience the error as a part of the learning process. As their work is intimately personal, they experience and conquer autonomy and identity. The materials are scientifically designed for the sensory and cognitive development, and for making student capable of learning reducing the intervention of the teacher. Between structured material, there is a series of objects that vary progressively in relation to a single feature (colour, height, weight, shape, interlocking, roughness, etc.), and others that vary in relation to their sonic properties, alphabetic letters of various materials, and so on. According to this orientation, referring some relevant examples of structured didactic materials could explain their specific features, strengths and drawbacks related with the theories and methods described in the first section.

2. Learning with structured materials, games and creativity. Structured materials are game-materials whose elements are linked together by a specific network of relationships (...). This means that within the same type of material (blocks, sticks, etc.) the different elements are in a relationship of equality/difference on the basis of variables characterizing them (e.g. shape, colour, etc.). These elements, comparable or opposable to one another, have the predisposition to assume mutual positions, according to the structure that connects them. It is important to remember that in order to facilitate the learning process it would be appropriate also the use of not-structured materials (sand, water, etc). Among the structured materials we mention the logic blocks and the bingo. The first one is constituted by elements that are defined in a network of relationships on the basis of certain variables. The bingo, however, is a highly structured material; the game is not based on the possible combinations of the elements and the action of the child is

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limited to a simple combination: each tile in a place on the table. It is clear that there are different types and levels of structuring. It is important to note, however, that the structure is a conceptual construction. The result of this assumption is that it is possible to attribute identical structures in different types of material, or assign structures to material that at first looks like unstructured. A key feature of the structured materials is the fixed way in which it can be used; the result that the player should get is already defined a priori and thus verifiable. The game is characterized precisely by a predetermined goal to reach, but it should be noted that the predetermined and intrinsic goals of the game could be modified. To obtain a certain result with structured materials, the child has to follow procedures or actions that require the implementation of specific mental functions. The teacher will be favoured in establishing the peculiar educational purpose and the specific target that can be  achieved  with  the  game.  In  this  way  it  is  possible  to  create  a  “finalized  game."   The main purpose of games with structured material is not to elicit expressive behaviours and personal communications through a subjective fantastic elaboration, but it is to enable the accurate and timely exercise of specific cognitive functions (perception, logical, linguistic, etc.). The aim of games designed with structured materials is to develop creative thinking. In this sense, creativity is identified as the ability to discover elements to find new combinations. The creative process is also seen as the ability to restructure a field, identifying connections between the elements, from past knowledge and experiences. In Montessori thought both creativity and imagination are not innate and spontaneous, but are won through paths in which adults support children.

3. The educational purpose of the structured materials According to the first paragraph, the educational value of games designed with structured materials is expressed in stimulating the child developmental processes of logical and creative skills. However, this overall objective could be achieved through several specific actions. The games are aimed first and foremost a valuable tool to learn about the level of skills achieved by the children with respect to certain tasks. These tools help to verify the degree to which perceptual skills, logic, language have been acquired by the child and to examine situations in which they are used, allowing to check whether the learner is capable of transferring knowledge from one domain to another. Such games assume, in addition, another very important purpose for the educator: they constitute an opportunity to identify the cognitive processes that the child uses, as well as to detect the aspects in which the child express greater difficulties. This will allow the teacher to encourage and strengthen these cognitive processes. It may also represent an important opportunity to make an intervention of "deepening education." If you observe that a child has certain uncertainties in some areas of cognitive development, you can expect to take a specific action, using precisely adjusted structured materials that stimulate these skills when the child shows more uncertain. Beyond all the positive aspects listed must not forget that these games aim should be administered only when the teacher has clear objectives to be achieved. In addition, the structured materials are educationally relevant when: they are appropriate to the actual ability of the child Item they have graduate difficulties

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they do not compress the other interests of child they are used to achieve the planned objectives Another important aspect to take into consideration in the administration of the games is the modality by which the educator presents them to children.

4. How to present the structured games to children Taking a cue from the various psychological theories of learning and development, we could consider as the time for games presentation the so-called " educational space": the moment in which the adult can fit in the space of learning child. In this period, the child should accept with pleasure a material that allows it to manifest and exercise capacity embryonic or uncertain. To avoid that the material supplied is used in the wrong way, may be useful to show the child the proper use. In general, before presenting the material to the child, the teacher should deepen their knowledge of the same, should take over the game and the educational possibilities that it presents, according to the different ages and abilities of children. The teacher must also pay close attention to times and modalities that promote the encounter between child and structured materials, putting the games activity in a wider program. According to the Montessori suggestions, the structured materials should be presented to the learner without many indications. The shapes, the colours and all the qualities of material have to be discovered by child, promoting exploration, knowledge and personal training experience. Beyond these general, there are some important elements to create the most favourable conditions to learning through games: 1. games provide the constant presence of the teacher as observer and games regulator; 2. the number of the group participants does not exceed 6-7 elements, in order to allow the active participation of each one (possibly the participants should be homogeneous in age and capacity); 3. there should be a program of activities so that all children can participate in the experience (every child should be placed in a group that will follow throughout a cycle of experience within the time and in the manner best suited to its components); 4. pay attention to the choice of place where the activities are carried out. The ideal would be to have, at least initially, a room specially designed for the game (or choose a quiet environment to promote the children attention); 5. it is necessary to present the material on a regular basis and to follow an audit at any time of the proposal (in order to facilitate the acquisition of new skills); 6. it is essential that the teacher effectively fulfilling its role of observer as this will allow to check both the validity of the material for the development of child (better if these observations are recorded) ; 7. teacher and child will have to create a "common language" related to the various elements of the structured materials, a language that will grow over time in its lexical precision. The latter aspect seems to play a crucial role in successful of learning through games.

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5. The role of language During the presentation of the games, or during the activity the common language created by teachers and children performs several functions: communicate, foster an interpersonal climate relaxing and motivating, enriching the language of children. During this activity, it is appropriate to provide children with an essential, accurate and simple language model that highlights the characteristics of structured materials and the rules of game. On the one hand, this allows the child to more easily understand the operation of the game and, on the other hand, this is the source of both lexical enrichment and of reflection on the structural aspects of language. Other verbal interventions over the course of the game can be created to foster a climate of acceptance and understanding of the child. The interventions should be used to confirm the choices of child for dealing with problems. This typology of indications have the support of many studies that underline the attitude of confirmation (which must be verbal but also congruent with the voice tone and body language) in allowing the individual to organize the most of the own resources, to give their best without crashing. In particular, the studies revealed two types of interventions particularly suited to show attention to the student: 1. The first operation consists in expressing verbally: what the child is doing (for example, “you   took   the   green   block”);;   who   performs   operations   (   “you   put   the   red   block   next   to   each   other”);;   the   cognitive   used   strategies   (   “we   have   compared   two   yellow  blocks  and  now  we  are  looking  for  one  just  like  it”);; 2. The second action is to reflect the feeling experienced by the child in relation to the task in which he is involved. This action implies to verbalize the possible difficulties that the child may face in dealing with a problem (seems to me that you are in doubt as to which block to choose...”),   in   order   to   convey   that   his   difficulties   affecting the teacher and he does not underestimate them, but instead he is aimed to help  the  child  (“we  can  try  to  move  ahead  together  ...”). If the child is not able to overcome the uncertainties encountered, the language of the adult can be used no more for confirmation, but to give indications on the mental path to follow in order to resolve the problem. In this way, language becomes a powerful tool for thought structuring, because it not only supports a series of concrete actions, but it also helps the child to seek and prepare a plan for solution of a problem. At this point it is possible to emphasize that the language skills required by the games are not directed at the lexical richness, but rather at the identification and at the accuracy of logical and linguistic links.

6. The evaluation of the objectives achieved As already mentioned, in order to verify the level of children ability, the teacher first could make an observation on the precise and systematic way in which every single child faces a task in all its phases. Only when they have a clear knowledge of the children starting stage about his/her skills, the educator could carry out checks on progress towards its objectives and then from this audit to set new phases of educational activity.   When   we   speak   of   "verification",   we   don’t   refer   to   an   overall  

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assessment of the child by the adult, but an evaluation of the action that the same child has produced. “The assessment  then  becomes  a  check  on  completion/failure to achieve a specific goal”.   This   assessment   is   given   to   the   child,   as   they   will   go   ahead   in   his   task,   thus   making the verification is a very important adult-child relationship. In addition, the other members of the group can judge the work of each child with comments and criticisms. Only the constant presence of the adult could prevent the occurrence of distorted visions of the children work. It is important to emphasize that the success of the evaluation, and its sharing with the child observed, also depends greatly on the emotional relationship established between adult and child and, more generally, on the relational climate developed within the gaming group. On the other hand, the lack of evaluation is a source of confusion for child. The fact is that without a precise reference point, children have the feeling that the teacher is not interest in his/her work and this fact could have a negative impact on the development of his/her personality. The assessment, however, is also required when the child mistaken. No doubt a positive or a praise can give security to the child, but it is equally certain that a negative evaluation, presented in the right way, may be highly constructive. The latter allows the child to interact with reality, to know his difficulties to overcome them, to be aware of their skills and rules to follow. The communication of a negative evaluation has to be clearly articulated. In particular: 1. before providing a negative evaluation the educator should verify the constancy of the error; 2. is   not   restricted   to   point   out   the   error   generically   (“no,   that's   wrong”)   but   to   point out what is wrong with the pupil; 3. in case of error is appropriate to verbally correct elements in the execution of the task, emphasizing the partial positive choices; 4. it is necessary to direct the child's attention on the elements that has ignored or used incorrectly in order to make him think about his actions and his choices. The manipulation of material is also important for the child, because favours the discovery of objects diversity. In this way nothing is done on the result but on the cognitive process at the base.

7. The construction of games In order to perform games to have the structured materials is useful but not indispensable. It is not difficult to invent games using material of luck, when taking into account some fundamental guiding principles that we're going to call. For the construction of a game must be analyzed in the first place the material that you have available (either structured material or material of luck), to identify the structure. This gives us information on the type of operations that you can perform with the children, and consequently on the main skill. When working with informal material should be paid great attention to the major ambiguities that are produced and the possible misunderstandings. It therefore requires the teacher greater flexibility of judgment and a more careful observation of the strategies that the child tends to spontaneously put in

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place. In the invention of new games, as well as cognitive aspect, one must naturally consider a playful aspect properly. It is important that the exercises are pleasant and the value of supporting the intrinsic pleasure to acquire or exercise certain knowledge through a form of gambling fun. Another order of factors to consider is the presence or absence in the materials of the feedback that allow the child to verify the correctness of the exercise’s   execution.   The   possibility   of   independent   verification   in   general   increases the pleasure of the game. In games already on the market are rare devices prepared exclusively for the correction. More frequently, the various materials will serve the mutual control of a sensory modality to another. The first and fundamental distinction in games is that between games involving mainly perceptual functions and games involving in particular the logical skills. The first macro - category of games comprises all those games that tend to exercise the children of a given variable can be associated with a particular perceptual function. In this way, the variables with respect to which you intend to exercise the children are isolated in individual games. As a result we will have games in which predominates the tactile rather than auditory (the visual rather than olfactory). These games can therefore be offered with different materials. The difficulties that you may encounter when using informal material can be overcome by identifying additional criteria. Therefore, the use of the material informal, while it makes a more complex objective classification, the other allows the child to develop a greater flexibility of thought and this can make the game more fun. The logic blocks represent one of the most widespread and most structured materials also used in Italy. This material and its possible applications will be analyzed in the following paragraphs.

8. The free-game “Tap and  manipulate  objects  develops  the  senses  and  allows  the  child  to  learn  about  the   world”. The Montessori approach is even based on notion  of  “free-game”.  Fröbel,  in  one  of   his  works  in  1826,  explains  that  the  game  gives  “joy,  serenity  within  and  outside  they,   helping  the  child  to  grow,  learn  to  relate  to  others”. According to the scholar, the game is not a waste of time, as was thought until then, the contrary is the seed for all his future life. A "serious game", in short, that lays the foundation for the socialization of the adult of tomorrow and promotes the acquisition of new skills. For this purpose, Fröbel has made a series of simple geometric shapes of wood, called by him "gifts" (sphere, cube and cube divided into cubes of different number or bricks). The child must use these new toys in a free and spontaneous way, according to the wishes and aspirations of the moment. Even songs, dances, games of movement outdoors are key activities to be offered to children and continue to be, in the  same  way,  today  in  schools  for  children.  Fröbel’  idea  of  leaving  the  children  free  to   express their natural tendencies has also contributed to the spread of education in accordance with the principle of personality. The thought of Fröbel become popular throughout Europe and inspired successive theories and the opening of kindergartens based on his method in Italy. Following this approach, Montessori practices suggest that it is important that at an early period, longer or shorter depending on the age of the children and their level of knowledge of the blocks characteristics, the children are left free to play spontaneously

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with the material to become familiar with it and gradually perceive the structure. The adult at this stage can observe how children sort and used replacement, it can be noted when approaching the blocks without any purpose, such as when put next to square circles randomly, or if you already form of more or less complex shapes, such as for example, a house, or whether they function classifications, such as when isolate all blocks of one colour from the other. Through this free game session the teacher can realize the starting level of the children in order to better adapt future training courses. The teacher must also ascertain whether the children know the names of the features of the blocks (colour, shape, size, thickness) and are therefore able to recognize them, or if he/her assigns to them incorrect names. When the level reached by the child is deemed acceptable, the teacher can begin to offer games that allow them to practice on the learning of these characteristics and the differences between them.

9. Games for Learning Attributes After the free activity, would be appropriate to introduce games that allow the children to learn about the various attributes of the blocks. Initially it is necessary that the child analyze a characteristic time. You can then start to play its attributes more generally known as the color or shape, then move on to others who relate to other features. Note that often the children's difficulties are not so much the recognition of features, but the name that is assigned to them. Child could, for example, to find two equal rectangles but do not know to correspond to the term rectangle that particular form. If at first, for some attributes, we can agree to use the names proposed by children, the correct terms must then be introduced in a progressive way. Always in a first step it is convenient for children to play with pieces that range in a single feature. This procedure allows the child to focus his attention on the attribute object of the game and to minimize possible errors. Examples with colour: Recognize equality: Place a block and ask the child to get one of the same colour; Naming: take a red block and say, " this is red", take another one and ask the child: "What colour is this?"; Check the acquisition: ask for a block ("pass me a red block"), and then to drive the game to a child ("ask your mates what block you want to bring you"); Point out the differences: placing a red block and ask the child to pick one of another colour; Storage: place in front of children three blocks of different colours, hide one and ask the children the colour of the block that has been hidden. All games presented above are for a single variable, but when the child has learned the individual attributes, educator could introduce games that combine two or more features. Even in this case, it must be graduated proposals, starting with two attributes (repeat games presented previously by varying the requests: for example, "give me a red square") then move on to three, then four. Very useful for games with more than

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one attribute is   the   introduction   of   Picard’s   table   (Fig.   1).   This   tool   helps   children   to   analyze and memorize simultaneously the variables of the blocks and their values. Its use is examined below: Distribute a block to each child, in turn ask to place your initial box in the first column and put a mark in the boxes that correspond to the characteristics of the piece. The child then will reading and lists the various attributes of his block; Make a block to hide a child and then a partner must try to guess the quality of this piece by asking questions relating to the various attributes symbolized on the table. When receiving affirmative answers, the child has to put a mark in the appropriate box. Once the value of a variable will no longer dwell on those that relate to the same variable. Completed the board will proceed to an audit showing the block previously hidden

Figure 1. Picard’s table:  an  example The possibility to take into account more variables also offers the opportunity to combine more games. When children have reached a certain familiarity with all the features, they can be to lead the game and establish the rules and the difficulty.

10. Logical blocks Logical blocks  were  introduced  by  Zoltan  Dienes  (…)  as  part  of  an  extensive  program   of teaching of mathematics and logical principles that underlie it. This specific structured material is one of the most used in the kindergarten and primary school. Logical blocks are then "a teaching aid to compose logical operations of association, comparison and discrimination  in  the  context  of  the  theory  of  the  whole"(…). Traditionally, the pieces were made of wood or plastic. The material consists of 48 classic pieces that vary in shape (square, rectangle, triangle, disk), colour (red, blue, yellow), size (large, small), thickness (thick, thin). Consequently, each piece can be accurately identified based on four characteristics. Initially, the children can use the different pieces to play freely and thus learn to appreciate the differences in the material itself. After the children have been familiar with the logic blocks, the teacher could carry out educational activities in order to strengthen and regulate those traits such as curiosity, the urge to explore and understand the joy of discovery, the motivation to test the thinking and skills recognition and discrimination. All games that use this type of structured material can be conducted by individual children or small groups, but always under the supervision and guidance of the teacher. The game

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activities with the logic blocks and the educational purposes of that are presented in the following paragraph.

11. Learning connectives using logical blocks As the word suggests, connectors are elements that bind together the statements. Their logic function is the ability to deduce the truth or inaccuracy of complex propositions only by knowing the truth or inaccuracy of elementary propositions that compose them (eg. "This block is and it is triangle" corresponds to the conjunction of the two sentences elementary "this block is a triangle" and "this block is red" related precisely by the connective "and", so the complex statement is true only if both simple sentences that compose it are true). It is important for children to practice the use of connectives either because they can gain a greater ability to think correctly and accurately, because the connectives are the basis for more complex logical and mathematical operations. 11.1. The connective "and” All games involving the union of two or more attributes imply the use of the conjunction "and". For example take a blue square implies that the block is square "and" it is blue. There are several games that tend to point the logic function of this conjunction. Below are some examples of possible games: the connective "and" limits the possibility of choice: have all the blocks square and ask the student to take the square block and red. The choice is restricted to a single block; a block contains all the quality joint by "and": ask for a block that does not exist, for example green and square. If the child still holds out a square block means that it sees that it must take into account all the characteristics of joint; Highlighting the truth values of the conjunction "and": deploy a block to each child and ask everyone if they have received a square block and yellow. Who has actually received will have to answer in the affirmative to this question only. Children need to learn how to use all of the connectives, so you can introduce games that highlight the characteristics of other connectives. 11.2. The connective "or” The learning of the connective "or" can bring more difficulties to children because of the double meaning with which it can be used. In particular, we have: or " inclusive (or even). For example, you ask the child a big block instead or yellow; "or " exclusive (or instead). For example, you ask the child a big block or even yellow.

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It is important to exercise the children on the use of the connective "or" inclusive which is the basis of the operation of conjunction. Again there are various games that can be offered to children. For example: The possibility that an object has a quality or another increases the possibilities of choice: asking, for example, to store in a container all the red blocks or squares. After the successful completion of the task you have to point out to the child that the blocks are red blocks in containers or square blocks. Continuing the game you can extract a block from those previously collected and, without showing it, ask students if it is a red block or square. After receiving the affirmative shows the block asking more specifically if the block is red or square. Even the latter, like all games presented in the previous sections, is intended to facilitate a detailed analysis of the characteristics of the blocks, storing them and the acquisition of the correct use of connectives. You can, however, also offer games that tend to a deepening of the fundamental concepts of operations of set theory. Here are some examples: Introduce the concept of "together": to understand that within the universe (in this case represented by all blocks) you can choose many sets (set of red blocks, set of square blocks, etc.). Check if the children have internalized the idea of set membership: after the child has formed the set of triangular blocks, you can ask questions such as: "to your collection belongs the blue circle? " Or " belongs to your collection the small triangle? " 11.3. The negation " not " It is increasingly common practice to use the communication model based on the negation "not" inserted in the sentence. The concept of denial is not so difficult in theory, but sometimes causes many difficulties for the human brain. In fact, when you ask for an audience not to think about a particular object or a person often lead to the opposite effect. Just the object denied captures the thought and imagination of most people present. The speaker in this way gives a command in the negative form. The human brain must represent well what was suggested not to do to listen to the advice. Consequently, the effect will be to "erase" the negation present in the sentence. It is therefore no wonder that children encounter some difficulty in learning the concept of negation. Even in this case to allow it to exert can be administered to children different games: Make negative   requests:   ask   for   a   block   not   yellow,   not   square,   etc.   …   (the   characteristics to be avoided can also be more than one) ; Introduce the concept according to which two negations are eliminated: ask the children to a "block that is not not blue." But we must not wonder too hard to understand for the children (even at five years) because it is a little formula used in common speech. Would be more appropriate to proceed step by step in this game. Closely related to the concept of negation is the notion of implication.

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11.4. The implication "if ... then ..." Associating the periods presented in the previous section, asking for a block that does not mean that it is blue if it should not be blue, then it may be red or yellow. Even the implication is a very useful concept to the logical development of the learner and should not be underestimated in the possible proposals of play: Have a guess feature: hide a block and allow children to guess the characteristics through specific questions and then by exclusion. Hide a block and provide   a   range   of   negative   indications   (not   red,   not   yellow,   etc.   …)   promote the logical implication in the child; Game I: A child tries to guess the block that requires a friend asking him questions about the various attributes Game of denial in two teams form two teams of three or four children, each of which receives 24 pieces. Each team cannot see the pieces of the other. One of the teams begins to ask that half a block that does not own, calling in his four attributes. If the request is correct, the block is given, otherwise not. The game continues in this way, and each piece cannot be taken more than one time. Children can go wrong in calling a piece because they do not carefully observe their pieces or because they do not realize that not having a block implies that this is in the possession of the other team. Game of the hidden piece: it is a more complicated variant of the previous game. A group of three or four children try to guess a hidden block in turn by one of the players (the children could use the table Picard, see Fig.1). The empirical validity of all the exercises described in this chapter in fostering the cognitive development of children, has led to a rapid spread of the structured material, and in particular of the logic blocks, now widely used in most elementary schools.

References [1] S.E Cooperstein,., E.Kocevar-Weidinger, Beyond active learning: a constructivist approach to learning, Reference Services Review, 32 -2, (2004), 141-148. [2] Ferriere, A., L'école active. 2 vol, Editions Forum, Neuchâtel et Genève,1922.

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Hands-on educational  practices  and   Tachnologies a

Andrea DI FERDINANDOa , Carlo RICCI b and Massimiliano SCHEMBRIa Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Istituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della Cognizione – Rome, Italy b Università Pontificia Salesiana – Rome, Italy Abstract. In this chapter we be describe the main characteristics of the technological field to enhance manipulation. In this part the state of the art about Technologies applied to manipulative learning will be described. Keywords. RFID sensors, Technology Enhanced Learning, Augmented Reality, Cognitive Rehabilitation

Introduction The exploration of our living environment and the manipulation of physical objects are the basis for the majority of our learning processes. This natural inclination of the human being is particularly evident in the first years of life and becomes apparently less evident with the progress of psychological development. In fact, as shown by the literature (eg, Piaget (1936) and Bruner (1990)), recent perspectives dell'Embodiment Cognition (Pfeifer, Bongard, 2006) and research related to the discovery of mirror neurons (Rizzolatti, Craighero , 2004), the concrete actions that we do in the physical world in the age of childhood are gradually absorbed and incorporated into our mental and neural processes. In short, even if we do not act with the body will continue to act in the mind. This generative principle and organization of our psyche explains the massive success of many of the new technologies. For example, the mouse, the touch screen and the web designed as a space "navigable" and "browsable". Artificial systems are completely isomorphic to our neuro-cognitive structures and then there appear simple to understand and use. In this trend of development are placed Technologies of Augmented Reality (AR) and the Internet of Things (IOT). Both approaches arise from the integration of different hardware and software technologies - such as micro-sensors, micro-computers, cloud computing, efficient algorithms for Artificial Intelligence - in order to enhance our ability to manipulate "things" and to explore the world . Many of these systems have already entered into our daily habits as in the case of the navigation system. Probably one of the fields in which the HR and the IOT could have a major impact is represented by applications in the areas of strengthening of the processes of learning / teaching, cognitive rehabilitation and educational game. These environments require a high degree of customization of technology solutions since each individual carries its own peculiar diversity. The task of technology is to adapt to these diversity in order to be really useful. The realization of Augmented Reality environments is technologically complex and can only be achieved through the collaboration of different professionals: sensors experts, programmers, experts in artificial intelligence, etc.. It is a widespread need,

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therefore, to take advantage of platforms that reduce the complexity and cost of implementation environments "educational" technology-based HR and / or IOT and allowing the Psycho-pedagogical designers to intervene more directly in the process of creation of these environments. The platform STELT (Smart Technologies to Enhance Learning and Teaching), presented in this paper, integrates in a single development environment, the management of hardware - sensors and actuators - and software - libraries for the storyboard and the provision of feedback, authoring systems for use by nonprogrammers - necessary for the construction of educational materials, educational, diagnostic / rehabilitation and playful that exploit the potential of new technologies for Augmented Reality. In the following pages we will describe the architecture and some of its applications in the field of teaching basic concepts in logical-mathematical school (BlockMagic project, the core the book), in enhancing communication in people with autism (PECS Walden Communicator project, WPC) and in a application of science dissemination (RoboProf project).

12. Technologies designed to "learn by doing" For many years the computer has been used as a tool "instructionist", ie as a means of transmitting educational content (video lectures, presentations, hypertext) with a purely prescriptive and unidirectional, almost like a substitute of the teacher. Only in the last decade technological equipment have assumed the role of "cognitive tool" as an amplifier of experiential contexts of mental functions and, in fact, new information technologies have been developed based on the use of artificial environments and technological artifacts (Educational Simulations, microworlds, robots) that have revolutionized the traditional way of doing education. This new approach considers the central role of the subject in the active learning process that increases its knowledge through the manipulation and the actual construction of objects, becoming architects of their own learning path. In this perspective, technology is seen as a privileged tool that allows you to stimulate new ways of learning closer to the natural learning processes. The use of these tools in education / training allows individuals to appropriate ways of doing experiential knowledge. Starting from this revolution, learning technology candidates in the near future to join in educational / training in our schools, universities and professional training agencies arise from the interaction of three particular scientific and technological domains: video games, mathematical models of natural phenomena / social computer-simulated and hybrid systems hardware / software (such as, for example, Augmented Reality systems, robots, automation devices). In fact, the know-how developed in these areas properly integrated with the clear definition of teaching and educational purposes has generated a wide range of prototypes and commercial products which are often referred to as serious games, as indicated by the acronym SG, and environments of Technological Enhanced Learning, whose acronym is (obviously) be TEL. From the perspective of educational / training such systems are intended to enable their learning processes based on the direct experience of the student.

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They are real educational workshops where learners interact with an environment (fully digital or also consist of physical components) inside which can lead to experiences in order to arrive to acquire new knowledge or skills. A good example of this approach is represented by AVIDA, a Seriuos Game developed by Digital Evolution Laboratory at Michigan State University, where the player-student determines the life of populations of artificial organisms at various levels of complexity (genetic, behavioral, populational ). Practically AVIDA looks like a video game with a sophisticated three-dimensional graphics, however, is to be considered in all respects as a true teaching laboratory where students can conduct experiments of Evolutionary Biology. Currently there are many Serius Games, as Avida, are based on the paradigm of teaching and learning by doing are applied to various disciplines (Economics, History, Physics, Social Sciences, Ecology, etc..). The experiences that can allow a student to enrich their knowledge does not end in the implementation of laboratory experiments but extend to other forms of actions which fall mainly into two broad categories: a) the exploration of new and exciting "worlds"; b) active participation in relational experiences (compared to others), guided by a clear objective educational-training (fall into this category RPGs). The three categories of learning experiences just outlined (make experiments, explore worlds, interact with others) represent the three pillars of "learning by doing". In this chapter, the focus will be on how these three categories can be increased thanks to the manipulative act.

13. An applicative case: STELT STELT is a software platform, developed by WALDEN TECHNOLOGIES srl., which enables the implementation of augmented reality systems based on the RFID technology (Radio Frequency Identification) and NFC (Near Field Communication). The RFID / NFC are very thin transponder that apply to any type of objects and the compact size readers are able to detect them. The reader can be connected to a computer via a wired or wireless connection, or integrated as a standard feature of smartphones and tablets (NFC sensor). STELT blends into a single development environment, communication protocols with various hardware devices (reader and output devices), a storyboard environment to create some interactive scenarios of varying complexity, a database for tracking user behavior and a Adapting Tutoring system able to analyze and interpret such behavior, and provide relevant feedbacks. The hardware and operating principles of STELT are shown in Figure 1: a) a person places an object "tagged" on-reader or a tablet or smartphone brings a reader close to the object "tagged" b) the signal containing the code of the object is sent to a computer (desktop, notebook, tablet or smartphone) where there is the STELT platform; c) Once in STELT system, the signal generates a series of actions by the output devices (sound systems, monitors, LEGO NXTmaterials), according to the current scenario created using the the storyboarding module. In addition, the module Adapting Tutoring stores and analyzes the signal, in order to create a custom profile on the user and guide subsequent responses of the system. In this way, the human-computer interaction takes place exclusively through the manipulation / detection of physical objects and the activation by the computer sound

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feedback, visual or activation of hardware devices such as the switching on of lights, the starting a small mobile robot, opening doors, etc.. From the technical point of view, STELT is a SDK (Software Development Kit) which contains software libraries for the management of sensors, storyboarding, Monitoring and Adapting tutoring for creating applications on Windows (Vista, 7, and 8), Android and iOS. Inside the SDK, also are present Authoring Systems that allow even personnel without computer skills to intervene directly in the creation of scenarios for educational / rehabilitation.

Figure 1. Description of a generic environment augmented reality STELT developed with: a) a user connects a device detector RFID sensors with an object already "tagged" The reader / detector can be inserted into a surface (desk) or an accessory handled by the user (smartphones, glove, stick), b) the signal is received by a computing device (pc. Tablet-pc, windows smatphone or Android) is processed through the software developed with STELT c) an audible feedback that can be represented by a sound file, video, or by the activation of hardware (for example, a small robot) is emitted..

14. Some environments of augmented reality developed with stelt technology 14.1. Block Magic: enhancement of traditional teaching methodologies for the school and primary school The logical blocks are a common methodology used mostly in educational curricula in kindergarten and primary school. The most popular version of this method uses 48 blocks organized into four different categories: geometry (triangular, square, rectangular, circular), thickness (thin, thick), color (red, yellow, blue), size (small, large) . By combining the blocks can be designed exercises that support the teaching of different disciplines (mathematics, logic, grammar, language, etc..). For example, using these tools it is possible to ask to children between 5 and 6 years of age dealing with the study of the first rudimentary concepts of set theory and basic arithmetic to solve problems progressively more complex like:

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Choose all the blocks that have only four sides (simple problem) Select all the blocks that have only four sides that are NOT red (more complex problem) Select all the blocks that have only four sides that are NOT red and they are great (the problem even more complicated). The strength of this method is due to the reason that you may encourage young students to pursue high-level cognitive functions (problem solving, logicalmathematical learning of concepts, etc.). Using concrete manipulative activities and very similar to their daily games. The methodology of logical blocks is extremely expensive because it requires the constant intervention of an adult who facilitates, supervises and stimulates the action of children. In addition, the logical blocks are not the best tool in order to be used by large groups of children, because the activities may involve more than 3-4 people in the same time. Block-Magic exceeds these limits because, thanks to the use of the development environment called STELT, a software performs the function of artificial tutor and allows the child to play / practice even without the presence of a supervisor (teacher or parent). In accordance with the process described above (see figure 1) Block-Magic is based schematically on the following steps: The logic blocks are "tagged" with the RFID sensors, A child places one or more blocks on a tablet connected to a computer via a USB cable Block-Magic software recognizes the child's actions and provides audio and visual feedback to guide him in solving exercises of various kinds (logicalmathematical problems, construction of simple sentences, etc..). An international research consortium funded by the European Commission developed the first prototype of Block-Magic integrating the advanced features of STELT. They were designed and manufactured exercises for strengthening basic arithmetic, logical and abstract thinking, problem solving and decision making collective. An initial prototype was evaluated by educational experiences conducted in Italy, Spain, Greece and Germany. The first data testify to an encouraging welcome from the children, teachers and parents even if it finds few lacks from the ergonomic point of view (for example, the use of the speech synthesizer is unwelcome and for this reason it has been improved in a second stage, the navigation between the various exercises is cumbersome, etc..). For more details, please refer to the following chapters, where the Consortium of Block Magic describes the results and experiences obtained during the project. 14.2. Walden PECS Communicator (WPC): enhancement process of interpersonal communication in persons with severe disabilitiescognitive-behavioral Many diseases related to the cognitive-behavioral disorder are associated with a pervasive use of oral language. For several years the systems of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) help people suffering from this disorder to communicate with other people. In this context, there are two families of technologies: the Speech-Generating Devices (SGDs) and the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS.). The first ones are devices for voice production and are also called

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Voice-Output Communication Aids (VOCAs), these can be programmed to play back recorded audio messages or use speech synthesis systems. There are simple versions of this microswitches based on assistive technology that can generate an infinite number of messages using speech synthesis technology. The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) instead teaches how to communicate in a functional manner through the exchange of images printed on cards depicting objects (toys, food, objects from everyday life, etc.). Persons or actions (eating, drinking, quit. ..). Recently, with the ability to use the touch-screen tablet has been possible to combine the methodology of PECS with SGDs. These applications (APPS) allow a patient to select on the tablet screen images that attract his interest (or needs) and as a result the software will produce a sound file - a phrase - that the educator or parent can hear. The PECS, the SGDs and their combinations are methodologies to support interpersonal communications widely used around the world. Their widespread use has also revealed some problems that briefly listed below: A message generated by SGDs to be heard by the communication partner should be delivered at a high volume, the effect of noise pollution limits their use in inclusive environments (classroom, group work, etc.); The communication partner must still be in close proximity (eg in the same room) to be reached by the voice message; The simplest systems (ie those based on micro-switches) are applications that are difficult to modify by personnel without experience. In other words, add new images and new sentences is a task that requires the skills of a computer programmer. This reduces the flexibility and customization that on the contrary it is extremely necessary for people with severe disability; The latest technologies that integrate PECS and SDGs and take advantage of the touch screen tablet outweigh some of these limitations but force the person with severe disability to deal with some skills that are difficult to obtain (handling and comprehension of the digital environment). The Walden Technology srl on the basis of STELT platform has implemented a first prototype, the Walden PECS Communicator (WPC), which aims to address the limitations summarized above. The WPC allows the person with disabilities and serious impairment of verbal language to use traditional PECS cards and send a message textual and visual (audible and / or written) to a caregiver (teacher, parent, rehabilitator, etc..) That can also be located relatively far from the person with a disability (eg in another room). In addition, the WPC has an authoring system that easily allows to enrich the repertoire of images and messages (audio and visual) associated with them. In general, the operation of the WPC is based on the following steps: a) the person with a disability poses in contact with a reader (RFID reader with Bluetooth connectivity or smartphone with NFC sensor) PECS cards "tagged" with RFID sensors, b) the signal is detected and sent to the smartphone caregiver c) the resident software on your smartphone recognizes the tag and outputs a visual message (PECS digital reproduction of the image) and text (written and / or spoken) that the caregiver can easily understand. An initial prototype of WPC is under evaluation by the research group of prof. Giulio Lancioni University of Bari Early data indicate that subjects given the opportunity to choose between the use of traditional PECS, and the I-PECS (supported

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by the WPC) prefer the latter to the former. In addition, the WPC seems to stimulate communication requests, in fact the number of requests transmitted via WPC is significantly greater than those made with traditional PECS. Parents and educators have expressed a high appreciation of the WPC system compared to traditional PECS, SGDs or combinations thereof. 14.3. ROBOPROF: environment of augmented reality for dissemination science museum and communication The installations have been exhibited in Museums, Science Center and dissemination events - such as the thematic festivals-stimulate the active participation of visitors through the creation of highly interactive environments. In this context, the Laboratory for the Study of Natural and Artificial Cognitive Systems, University of Naples Federico II has developed a setting called RoboProf that allows the creation of interactive exhibits in a broad spectrum of disciplines. RoboProf proposed to a group of visitors to participate in a treasure hunt within a space could also be arbitrarily large as the entire building of a museum. The solution of the various questions of the game stimulate a small mobile robot to walk a stretch of road that will take him to the finish line. As quickly as the group of visitors will solve the problems of the treasure hunt as quickly the robot will reach the finish line. The questions appear on a large screen and challenge the "hunters" to find objects or places relevant to an assigned topic. Objects and places are tagged with RFID sensors, and the hunters are equipped with reader-portable (wands). The reader communicate via Bluetooth to a computer that has the STELT platform, which activates the screen provider of the questions and the mobile robot built with materials of construction kit LEGO-NXT. A variant of RoboProf uses reader-tablet, in which case the "hunters" have to find the items and take them on the tablet. In the same museum space can be made several installations of RoboProf so that the teams can compete for who can bring their robot more quickly to the finish line. Installations developed with RoboProf have been exhibited at the Science City of Naples and the Science Festival of Genoa (2011 edition). The public success was remarkable and has been testified by the exhaustion of the reservations of the play sessions that were organized. It was found that RoboProf is especially liked by children between the ages of 5 and 12 years compared with older children.

15. Conclusions and future directions In this chapter, some technologies have been presented to Enhance Hands-on educational practices and, in particular, has been described STELT, a development environment designed to create environments of Augmented Reality using the RFID sensor and the activation of various output devices (monitor computers and smartphones, projectors, speech synthesizers, materials Lego NXT kit, etc..). The applications achievable with STELT fall within the field of '"eduteinment" as RoboProf, assistive technologies, such as WPC, and teaching / learning, such as Block-Magic. In Block Magic in particular, the use of technology to improve the "Hands-on" educational practices, it was particularly important. The work done by the entire Consortium Block Magic project, in terms of conceptual, technological, methodological and experimentation, combined with the characteristics of the

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development environment STELT have allowed us to implement a functional prototype device, which achieved excellent results in the phase of trials in schools. The future goal of the whole partnership and its partners is to disseminate the project results and to extend the widest possible use of the kit Block Magic routines within the school in Europe. (1)

References [1] J. Bruner, Acts of meaning, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1990 [2] H. Lund, O. Miglino, L.Pagliarini, A. Billard, A. Ijspeert. Evolutionary Robotics. - A Children Games. Proceedings of International Conference on Evolutionary. Computation (1997)., pp. 100-104. IEEE Computer Society Press. [3] O. Miglino, R. Di Fuccio,M. Barajas, M. Belafi, P. Ceccarani, D. Dimitrakopoulou, C. Ricci, A. Trifonova, A. Zoakou; Enhancing Manipulative Learning with Smart Objects. . Stracke, C. Learning Innovations and  Quality:  “The  Future  of  Digital  Resources”. Berlin: Logos Verlag GmbH, (2013) pp 112-119 [4] O. Miglino, A.Di Ferdinando, A. Rega, M. Ponticorvo. Le nuove macchine per apprendere: simulazioni al computer, robot e videogiochi multi-utente. Alcuni prototipi. Sistemi Intelligenti 1 (2007) pp.113-136. [5] R. Pfeifer, J. Bongard, How The Body Shapes The Way We Think. A New View of Intelligence. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press., 2006 [6] J. Piaget. La  naissance  de  l’intelligence  chez  l’enfant. Neuchatel -Paris, Delachaux et Niestlè, 1936 [7] G. Rizzolatti, L. Craighero, The mirror-neuron system. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 27, (2004)16992. [8] Sica, L. S., Rega, A. & Nigrelli, M. L (2011). Una metodologia di utilizzo delle nuove tecnologie in contesti  di  apprendimento:  il  progetto  â€œTeaching  to  Teach  with  Technology  (T3).  In  Atti  dell'Ottavo   Convegmo Nazionale dell'AISC - Associazione Italiana di Scienze Cognitive, pages 175-177. [9] Rega, A., Caretti, M., Rubinacci, F. & Iacono, I (2009). Playware games: nuove tecnologie che trasformano il modo di giocare ed imparare.. In AISC09. [10] Rega, A., Iacono, I. & Scoppa, A (2009). Magic Glove: An Interactive Hardware/Software System to Animate Objects. An Exploratory Study in Rehabilitation Setting.. In IDC-2009, pages 31-34. Como Italy [11] Miglino, O., Walker, R., Venditti, A., Nigrelli, M. L. & Rega, A (2010). Teaching to teach with technology  â€“  An  EACEA  project  to  promote  advanced technology in education.. In Proceedings of the 7th Pan-Hellenic Conference with International Participation «ICT in Education»,, pages 171175. [12] Miglino, O., Ponticorvo, M., Rega, A. & Beniamino, D. M (2008). Robotics Exhibits for Science Centres. Some Prototypes. In MATFYZPRESS (editor), Eurobot Conference 2008, pages 145-155. Heidelber - Germany : MATFYZPRESS

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Part II The Block-Magic project: a case of study

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Methodology and  Technology  in  Block   Magic   a

Mario BARAJAS a , Anna TRIFONOVAa Future Learning - Universitat de Barcelona – Barcelona, Spain

Abstract. In this chapter we be describe the main characteristics of the technological field to enhance manipulation. In this part the state of the art about Technologies applied to manipulative learning will be described. Keywords. Block Magic, Magic Block, RFID sensors,

Introduction This chapter aims to give a brief description of Block Magic project, the smart object system developed through various development and evaluation cycles and the methodology adapted. Block Magic1 was a two years EU project that aimed at introducing a new teaching methodology and technology targeting young children between the ages of 2.5 and 7 who are attending pre-school or the early years of primary school. The overarching goal was to help young learners to learn autonomously. This, the authors believe, is a basic life-skill of critical importance for children future development. Block Magic project aimed to provide an attractive and highly motivating approach to teaching a broad range of specific skills: logical, mathematical, language, strategic and social, which will be important for learners in later life. Block Magic goal was to support the acquisition of life-long skills where alternative teaching methods may be less effective, such as large classes or students with special needs. Through the Block Magic project, the consortium members collaborated in the design and development of an advanced educational tools that exemplifies the Smart Object technology. The system, called Block Magic (as the project itself) is described in more details in this chapter, starting with an overall description and later giving more details about its different parts (hardware and software).

16. Background Block Magic is a new and more evolved version of the logic blocks of L.S. Vygotsky. The logical blocks created in an extended version by L.S. Vygotsky and later reduced to the current quantity from Z.P. Dienes is a structured material composed of 48 pieces organized in 4 categories: a) color, (red, yellow, blue); shape (square, circle, triangle, rectangle); thickness, (thick, thin) and size (small, big).

1

Block Magic (517936-LLP-1-IT-COMENIUS-CMP)

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Figure 1. Block Magic’s  blocks

The logic blocks, also called attribute blocks, are very versatile manipulatives for kids that are designed and mainly used for learning mathematical concepts related to algebra, set theory, geometry, number theory, and logical thinking including sorting, comparing/contrasting, patterning, classifying, identifying, sequencing 2 . In the statements that specify classes and relations, might intervene, operating compositions such as conjunction, disconjunction (inclusive or exclusive) and the denial. Such logical operations correspond, respectively, to the set-theoretic intersection, of union and the passing of the subject. By combining four attributes, students can learn shapes, classification (sorting) skills, congruent vs. similar, fractions, proportions, patterns, comparison/contrast, patterning, and many other mathematical concepts and thinking skills. Attribute blocks are found to be very versatile manipulative that can be used with very young students through middle school (Hegg, 2006). With attribute blocks it is possible to arrange various educational activities aimed at the accomplishment of providing the basics and the operative procedures of the “naïve” theory  of  the  set  theory.  For  example: Color and shape discrimination Color and shape denomination Classification based on one, two, three or four quality Use of the connectives and, or, if – then,  (ex:  if  it’s  not  red  or  yellow  it’s…) Seriation  (ex:  classify  by…)   Denial (ex: give me a block which should not be not blue). Complex sequences etc. 2

http://learningideasgradesk-8.blogspot.com.es/2011/09/attribute-blocks-shapesfor-learning.html

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Starting from the basic principles formulated by L.S. Vygotsky and subsequently reviewed by Z.P. Dienes, the Block Magic consortium believes that with the proposed “smart objects”-based system, the logic blocks can be useful for teaching a larger set of skills, in addition to the mathematical and logical, for which the logic blocks have been designed. The Block Magic software and especially the intelligent use of the instrument, will allow the usage of a series of exercises / games that can stimulate, increase and evaluate even those skills that are less structured and more transverse, such as creativity and language.

17. Block Magic Training KIT Block Magic is centered on the concept of a magic block – an “intelligent”  version  of   the   “attribute   blocks”   or   “logical   blocks”   and   “teaching   tiles”   already   familiar   to   teachers.

Figure 1. Block Magic's blocks

The logic blocks, also called attribute blocks, are very versatile manipulatives for kids that are designed and mainly used for learning mathematical concepts related to algebra, set theory, geometry, number theory, and logical thinking including sorting, comparing/contrasting, patterning, classifying, identifying, sequencing 3 . In the statements that specify classes and relations, might intervene, operating compositions such as conjunction, disconjunction (inclusive or exclusive) and the denial. Such logical operations correspond, respectively, to the set-theoretic intersection, of union and the passing of the subject.

3

http://learningideasgradesk-8.blogspot.com.es/2011/09/attribute-blocks-shapesfor-learning.html

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Figure 2. Block Magic's suitcase

The Block Magic teaching kit consists of a set of magic blocks, a magic board, a specific software and a teacher’s manual specifying learning activities. In other words, Block Magic Training Kit is a small suitcase containing all materials needed by a teacher to put in practice the Block Magic concept and exercises with children

Figure 3. Opened Block Magic's suitcase

Block Magic uses the set of 48 blocks of different geometrical forms, colors, size and thicknesses   (the   above   described   ‘logic blocks’).   The   Block   Magic   system   combines the traditional tiles with a low-cost RFID technology (Radio-frequency identification). Each magic block has an integrated / attached passive RFID sensor through which the block is identified wirelessly. A specially designed wireless RFID reader device (called the magic board) is used to read the RFID in a block and transmit the result to the Block Magic software engine. An   “intelligent”   software engine (see sub-sections) receives input from the board and will generate an "action". The software is able to personalize the formative path of the learner based on usage data collected during exercises, and a usage manual which specifies learning activities and educational scenarios to be used by the teachers.

18. Block Magic Methodology: manipulating objects for active teaching Block Magic training kit   is   based   on   the   use   of   "active”   techniques   of   teaching,   i.e.   procedural activities that involve students actively in the learning process, taking place through the interaction between the child and the software and with other children

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through the object manipulation and exploration of the space. The whole Block Magic system aims   to   be   a   “laboratory”,   defined   as   any   space   (physical,   operational   and   conceptual) suitably adapted and equipped to carry out a specific educational activity. From  the  educational  point  of  view,  the  “laboratory”  is  characterized  by  the  objective   of the activities. With  the  “laboratory”  style  of  teaching  the  student  is  in  control  of  the   learning, because the student is producing, is practicing and is learning by "doing". The overarching goal of Block Magic is to help young learners to learn autonomously. This basic life-skill is of critical importance for children future development. Block Magic provides an attractive and highly motivating approach to teaching skills which will be important for learners in later life and is expected to be highly efficient also in cases where alternative teaching methods may be less effective. Block Magic aims to create learning activities promoting the development of creative, mathematical, logical, language, strategic and social skills in normal children and in children with special needs. The methodology proposed in the project is designed in such a way as to encourage a progressive and steady process of learning and knowledge enrichment throughout the school year. The training makes use of "laboratory" activities, i.e. active teaching methodologies based on procedural activities that actively involve students in the learning process. The training comprises a set of activities as described below: 1. identification of learning objectives: teachers, after reading the manual they have been provided, define the learning goals of both the class and of the individual children, selecting how to use the Kit: number of sessions, duration, reference scenarios, etc. 2. users’   familiarization   with   the   tool:   the   first   day,   the   teacher   shows   to   the   children the game (the blocks) and opens a free play session, that aims at familiarizing them with the instrument and the identification of technical problems. The duration of this phase is defined by the teacher. 3. first play session: during the first day, or later (depending on the decision of the teacher), children playing with Magic Block by performing a series of exercises chosen by the software randomly from the database it contains. This first session allows the children to get to know the instrument. Meanwhile, the software creates for each   user   "base   line"   reference,   regarding   the   user’s   specific   skills   targeted   by   the   training. Based on this "base line", the teacher and/or the software will calibrate and customize the training for the individual child, identifying the less developed skills and defining accordingly which exercises to be proposed in the next game session. 4. analysis of data collected: at the end of the game session, the teacher is able to access the database of the results collected by the system and to use this data to restructure the training of the child, integrating it with information obtained through direct observation. To this end, the teacher can manually change the software settings by increasing the number of exercises for a specific skill, so as to reinforce the work in that specific area. 5. play sessions: the play sessions will be repeated in the manner and time set by the teacher, based on educational objectives previously identified, the characteristics of the target group and the results of the previous session. At the beginning of each game session, the teacher may decide to manually select the software settings. Otherwise, the software will select the group of exercises on the basis of the results collected and analyzed previously.

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19. Basic skills targeted in Block Magic The ultimate goal in Block Magic is to help young learners to learn autonomously. This, the authors believe, is a basic life-skill, of critical importance for children future development. Block Magic provides an attractive and highly motivating approach to teaching skills which will be important for learners in later life. Block Magic aims to create learning activities promoting the development of creative, mathematical, logical, language, strategic and social skills in normal children and in children with special needs. 19.1. Logical skills Logical skills   deal   with   reasoning   which   is   “the   capacity of human beings to make sense of things, to establish and verify facts”4. Logical skills could be considered a specific sub-class of the mathematical skills. Classification,  for  example,  “is  the ability to group like objects in sets by a specific characteristics. The synthesis takes place by children interacting with objects and putting them in many different types of relationships.”   (Eurydice, 1994). An easy attribute to start with is color and once children have exhibited an understanding of the concept more complex attributes, like shape or size, can be involved in the exercise (Fox and Lentini, 2006). 19.2. Mathematical skills Before learning to do formal mathematics, by performing e.g. summing or subtracting, children need to build the foundation of the future mathematical operations. According to Geist (2001), this is done by constructing ideas about mathematics that cannot be directly thought, such as quantification, order, sequence, seriation and classification. Furthermore,  children’s  mathematical  and  logical  thinking  develops  by  being  exercised   and   stimulated.   “Teachers   who   encourage   children   to   put   objects   on   all   kinds   of   relationships are promoting  children’s  emergent  understanding  of  mathematics.” Quantification,  for  example,  “is  the  basis  of  formal  mathematics  and  is  a  synthesis   of order (the basic understanding that objects are counted in a specific sequence and each object is counted only once)”  (Eurydice, 1994). The  author  claims  that  “children   as young as two may be able to count to 10 or even 20 , but if they do not link their counting to quantification it is no different to memorizing their ABCs or a list of names, like  Bob,  Joe  and  Sara.” Equality is another such concept which understanding leads a step further to understanding mathematical relationships. Sorting is a basic mathematical skill that is used in more complex areas of math. Small toys and colored and shaped blocks that allow to see and manipulate patterns are good tool for teaching the concept of sorting Mae (2011). 19.3. Creative skills 'Creativity' is a term that might be understood by different people and in different contexts in many different ways. Commonly, people relate it to arts and crafts, such as 4

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reasoning

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visual arts (e.g. ceramics, drawing, painting, sculpture, etc.) and music, or more recently with performing arts or photography. NACCCE (1999) defined creativity as an “imaginative activity  fashioned  so  as  to  produce  outcomes that are both original and of value”. As stated in the Official Journal of the European Union 5,  “all  levels  of  education   and training can contribute to creativity and innovation in a lifelong learning perspective: the early stages of education concentrating on motivation, learning to learn skills and other key competences, and subsequent stages focusing on more specific skills and the creation, development and application of new knowledge and ideas”. Creativity is viewed by many educators as an important part of the preschool. According to Hensel (1997) creativity involves two processes: thinking and then producing. The literature reveals that for stimulating creativity in young children, the following apply (note: the list id not ordered and not exclusive): creativity can be linked to artistic field (e.g. drawing or crafts) and also to problem solving and idea generation the focus should be on the process, not on the product; there is no right or wrong teachers should encourage experimentation, and should stimulate risks taking in save environments from the teaching side, promoting creativity could be considered the teaching of skills that will allow the child to be creative, such as the skill of using scissors ([8], p116). unexpected objects could be used to spark children's imagination. 19.4. Strategic skills “A strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve a vision. Strategy is all about gaining (or being prepared to gain) a position of advantage over adversaries or best exploiting emerging possibilities. As there is always an element of uncertainty about future, strategy is more about a set of options ("strategic choices") than a fixed plan”6. Strategic skills are often linked to planning and problem solving. It also involves logical thinking and prediction. 19.5. Language skills Language skills in young children, including in pre-school involve development of vocabulary, but also a range of flexibility and control over the use of words in sentences and conversation. A young child can practice their language skills when   he/she   “describes   items   according   to   size,   shape,   color,   and   function   ”,   “speaks   clearly   and   fluently”,   “uses   varied   vocabulary   and   tries   new   words”,   “begins   to   use   more   complex   sentence   connectors  (e.g.  because,  if  ,  when,  although,  after,  before)”  Trehearne (2006) 5

http://eurlex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2008:141:0017:0020:EN:PDF 6 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategy

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Acquiring language skills comprises among other things, vocabulary development, comprehension, concept   sorts.   “Preschool   children’s   vocabulary   can   be   improved   by   simply listening to books read aloud. However, vocabulary gain are greatest if the meanings  of  the  words  are  discussed  directly,  preferably  before  and  after  the  reading“.   “Concept  sorts  provide  children  with  the  opportunity  to  think  and  talk  about  how  they   can compare and contrast items to develop and understanding of concepts and attributes.”  (State  of  Connecticut Board of Education, 2007). Sherard (1981) argues  that  Geometry  should  be  considered  basic  skill  “since  it  is   important  aid  for  communication”.  Many  geometric  terms  are  used  in  everyday  life,  for   example when giving location directions or describing shapes of objects, making the geometry terminology essential. Furthermore, Coggins et al (2007) suggest that providing non-linguistic mathematics materials facilitates the acquisition of mathematics language. In particular, by using manipulatives, such as the attribute blocks, children can learn new mathematical terms, for example "edge," "corner," "arc," "rotate," and so forth and practice to use them correctly. According to the same authors, concrete materials often facilitate understanding of mathematics languages. This approach could be particularly appropriate for non-native speaking children. Assigning two or more children to perform a task (e.g. to solve a logical problem) will not only stimulate the logical or strategic skills together with the social skills, but also will stimulate the acquisition of language skills. The children will explain, plan and even debate and discuss. The children will find themselves in the need to clearly communicate their ideas to another peer, provide arguments in defense of their proposal, etc. 19.6. Social skills According to Wikipedia 7 , in behaviourism, social skill is any skill facilitating interaction and communication with others. Social rules and relations are created, communicated, and changed in verbal and nonverbal ways. The process of learning such skills is called socialization. Social and emotional skills that have to be taught to young children, according to Fox and Lentini (2006) are: Following rules, routines, and directions; Identifying feelings in oneself and others; Controlling anger and impulses; Problem solving; Suggesting play themes and activities to peers; Sharing toys and other materials; Taking turns ; Helping adults and peers; Giving compliments; Understanding how and when to apologize; Expressing  empathy  with  others’  feelings;; 7

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_skills

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Recognizing that anger can interfere with problem solving; Learning how to recognize anger in oneself and others; Learning how to calm down; Understanding appropriate ways to express anger. Deficits or excesses in social behavior interfere with learning, teaching, and the classroom's orchestration and climate. One's social competence is linked to peer acceptance, teacher acceptance, success of inclusion efforts with students with disabilities, and post school success. Displaying poor social skills is likely to get one rejected by others (other kids don't like them and won't associate with them) . Fox and Lentini (2006) state that in order to teach social skills systematically and efficiently, teachers  need  to  be  aware  of  the  three  stages  of  learning:  “The  first  stage  is   skill acquisition — the skill is introduced to the child; the second stage is fluency — the child has learned the skill and can use it easily; and the final stage of learning is skill maintenance and generalization — the child can use the skill over time and in new situations”. Social   Skills  involve   learning  tolerance  of  others,  taking  another’s  point  of  view,   and   being   able   to   move   past   one’s   own   personal   needs and wishes (State of Connecticut Board of Education, 2007). Furthermore, social skills include the ability to: express wishes and preferences clearly; assert own rights and needs appropriately; express frustrations and anger effectively disagreements or harming others; gain access to ongoing groups at play and work; take turns fairly easily; show interest in others;

and

without

escalating

Children need to exercise these social skills in supportive settings for developing a social understanding and becoming socially competent. These skills take time to develop and must be rehearsed by young children so they can become aware of the effects their actions have on others. Some of the social skills that would be on focus in Block Magic include practicing verbal communication, respect towards other peers and tolerance and openness to different opinions/strategies, etc. To maximize the teaching of this skill, the project involves the construction of a specific scenario, focused on the social play. 20. The Block Magic System:  Smart  Objects,  “intelligent”  software The Block Magic software is of the type "intelligent" software, i.e. it is able to adjust the  training  based  on  the  learner’s  responses.  The system consists of: 1. 2.

a database with a set of exercises / games on specific skills, which are targeted by the teaching an ad-hoc created   graphical   interface   designed   specifically   for   the   children’s   interaction with the instrument

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3.

an “intelligent”  software  that  can  offer  a  customized  to  the  learner  training.

Using a probabilistic algorithm (a “Finite  State  Machine” build ad-hoc), the system is able to propose in each game session a group of exercises of varying difficulty and focusing on different skills. The degree of difficulty and the type of targeted skills are determined on the basis of the results obtained from playing in the previous session. To choose the right exercises, the algorithm uses a decision system based on a Gaussian curve. Thus, the major portion of the exercises will fall within the competence of the child, while a smaller percentage will be represented by exercises outside of these skills, so as to ensure a set of variables such as, for example the degree of learning of the different skills, the degree of interest, the learning curve, etc. The basic assumption is that every child learns in a very peculiar and subjective way, depending on the different concepts to be learned and strongly influenced by the method of teaching. With Block Magic training kits, children are evaluated only for their skills, the assessment (i.e. the students profile) is updated at the end of each game session on the basis of the results, and not based on the  students’  cognitive  or  biological  age,  which   sometimes is not representative, especially in the cases of children with special needs.

21. Reference Scenarios and Learning activities Five of the 6 skills targeted by the project, can be taught both individually and in group, while the "social skill" can only emerge under conditions of group play. To this end, the training methodology developed for the project defines two reference scenarios: 1. 2.

Individual Game Scenario Social [or Group] Game Scenario

Both scenarios are used for the games/exercises designed for practicing mathematical, logical, language, strategic and creative skills. While the first engages the child in a single player routine, the second scenario allows specifically the evaluation and improvement of social skills, through the execution of the same games but in cooperative or competitive mode between two or more children. The division into two scenarios was born from a double consciousness: 1. Social skills are exhibited only in a group and, although related to the cognitive ability of the children, follow individual development path. 2. The evaluation and the strengthening of social skills is closely related to the role of the educator, whose task will be to grasp the nuances of behavior expressed by children playing in the group (in cooperation or in competition), both of which can be difficult to evaluate correctly with nowadays software technology. The educator's observations, supplemented with data collected by the system, will allow calibrating the system in such a way that to work towards enhancing those skills that are lacking the most, both in the group and by the individuals. The Block Magic system contains a large number of learning activities (in total 17, plus two for children with special needs). Each activity is targeting one or more specific skill. Each exercise could have one or more variations (XXX in total for the current Block magic version 2). Furthermore, all exercises are classified according to

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three different difficulty levels: easy, medium, hard, depending on the number and type of tasks involved. Table 1. Learning activities of Block Magic Kit and targeted skills Learning activites

Primary Targeted skills

Secondary Targeted skills

Treasure hunt - The Right Block Attribute Group Missing a piece Complement of Picture Creative Drawing Missing a piece - Logic Train Creative Recognition Name the Magic Block Slices the shape

logical, mathematical

language

logical, mathematical logical

language creative, language

creative logical, mathematical

language language

logical language strategic / problem solving mathematical mathematical mathematical mathematical mathematical

creative mathematical language

mathematical

language

logic problem solving Logical, mathematical

language problem solving language, problem solving

Logical

Language

Logical, mathematical, strategic/ Problem Solving logical, mathematical

Language

logical, mathematical

language

Counting – Number based Counting – Picture based Addition – Number based Addition – Picture based Subtraction – Number based Subtraction – Picture based Creative train Memory Replace the sequence Learning of basic concepts for children with mental disability Learning of basic concepts for children with visual disability Treasure hunt - The Right Block Attribute Group

language language language language language

language

22. Teacher’s role The main task of the teacher is the definition of educational objectives to be achieved, both on a collective level, i.e. by the whole class, and by the individuals, i.e. by each child. The correct identification of these objectives will allow the educator to define and customize the training.

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The role of the teacher is different in the two scenarios described above. While in the individual scenario the teacher can act as an observer, leaving to the tool to manage and modify the training plan, in the second (i.e. the group game) scenario the teacher plays a central role, linked to the need to closely follow the student interactions, providing support and group management as needed. The teacher participates actively in the game session and, depending on the task at hand, will ensure that all children are involved and are participating equally, or could define which child takes the main responsibility of playing and define the roles of the other children. The roles could include providing support, observation, creating obstacle, etc. based on the characteristics of the specific exercises. The main aspect in the group scenario is that the educator collects information about the group interaction and the specific competences required, such as team building, the leadership, verbal and non-verbal communication. Also, the teacher is responsible for the integration of the results obtained in the game with behavioral observations, aimed at identification of the weaknesses and the potential of the involved children. At the operational level, the role of the teacher is to prepare the room, the Block Magic tools and the children for the Block Magic session. Also, depending on which scenario has been chosen for the session, the teacher may assume a supervisory role where active support is provided to the children, or simply the role of an external observer. Initially, the teacher should familiarize the participating children with the magic blocks and the magic board. Some time for free play with the blocks could be allowed in which the kids will observe the blocks and get initial feeling about their properties. Furthermore, short instructions should be provided on the use of the software, although it requires little direct interaction by the children. In the beginning of each session, except the first one, the teacher may decide to modify the system's probabilistic choices in the selection of exercises, based on his observations and the data analysis done by the system from previous sessions. In other words, the teacher will be able to reset (manually) some system parameters based on the goals they want to achieve. For example, if the teacher notices from the analysis of the collected data that a child is mostly lacking mathematical or logical skills, which normally are the most difficult, he/she might set the software to select more exercises for these skills at the expense of exercises targeting creative or language skills. If, however, most of the children in the class have difficulty in integration (e.g. in classes with a high number of immigrants) the teacher may decide to perform a larger number of game sessions of a group type while selecting exercises focusing on creativity and language skills. In each session, the teacher can use one of the two scenarios of use, i.e. the individual or the group one, depending on the targeted skills.

23. Summary and final remarks The Block Magic system, developed within a two years EU project, has the overarching goal to support the autonomous learning of young children, focusing on a range of basic skills: logical, mathematical, language, strategic and social. Children can work with Block Magic individually on their own or in teams (Single versus Social Game Scenario). Furthermore, as the Block Magic system is providing continuous feedback to the player on each step, it could be used either at home or at school. Indeed, the system was designed so that it can fit well in the regular (day to

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day) classroom activities of young children (age 2.5 – 7) and of learners with special needs. The Block   Magic   system   is   an   “intelligent”   system   which   analyses   student’s   performance against the different skills and adapts the difficulty level of the learning activities to the child needs. All methodological aspects described in this chapter form a system in which manipulation, learning strategies and technologies are mixed in a comprehensive learning environment in which children can develop or improve basic skills that are transversal in their learning.

References [1] S. Hegg, What’s the   difference between pattern blocks, attribute blocks, tangrams, and pentominoes, Wisdom Seekers Homeschool website, http://wisdomseekersinc.wordpress.com/2006/03/29/whats-thedifference-between-pattern-blocks-attribute-blocks-tangrams-and-pentominoes/, 2006 [2] E. Geist , Children are born mathematicians. Promoting the construction of early mathematical concepts in children under five. Young Children (2001), 56 (3), 12-19 [3] Eurydice, Pre-School and Primary Education in the European Union, Commission of the European Communities, Brussels (Belgium). Task Force on Human Resources, Education, Training, Youth report, 1994 [4] L.   Fox,   R.   H.   Lentini,   You   Got   It!   Teaching   Social   and   Emotional   Skills”   Beyond   the   Journal,   Young Children on the Web, November 2006 http://www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/200611/BTJFoxLentini.pdf [5] NACCCE All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education Report to the Secretary of State for Education and Employment the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, UK, 1999 [6] N. Hensel Back to basics with block play, Early Childhood Education Journal Volume 5, Issue 1, (1997) pp 36-38 [7] W.H. Sherard, Why Is Geometry a Basic Skill?, The Mathematics Teacher, (1981) Vol. 74, No. 1, January 1981 [8] State of Connecticut, State Board of Education A Guide to Early Childhood Program Development http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/DEPS/Early/early_childhood_guide.pdf, 2007 [9] D.Coggins, D. KravinCoates, M. D Carroll,. English language learners in mathematics classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 2007. [10] Caretti, M., Rega, A. & Sica, L. S (2011). Il progetto BLOCK MAGIC: una tecnologia cognitiva per il sostegno all'apprendimento. In Tecnologie, Scienze Umane e Scienze della Salute, pages 44-45.

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Transcultural experiences  of  Block-Magic   methodology:  observations  in  Greece,   Germany  and  Spain Dimitra DIMITRAKOPOULOUa, Jasmin KADEL b, Anna BRUESEHABER b, Marlen BELAFI b, Mario BARAJASc , Anna TRIFONOVAc a Ellinogermaniki Agogi – Pallini, Greece b Technische Universitat Dresden – Dresden, Germany c Future Learning - Universitat de Barcelona – Barcelona, Spain

Abstract. In this chapters the methodology developed for learning and teaching with RFID Smart Objects will be discussed considering all the related opportunities and the results collected in three different countries Greece, Germany and Spain. Keywords. Block Magic, school trials, RFID technology, ICT tool for learning,

Introduction During the Block Magic Project that last two years the Consortium conducted two different trial,  a  small  scale  “formative  evaluations”  with  selected  teachers  and  a  large   scale  “summative evaluation in Greece, Germany, Spain with classical classrooms; in Italy with children with special needs. In the next paragraphs we will describes the results achieved during these two years in each country involved in the project.

24. Transcultural experiences of Block Magic methodology: Observations in Greece In Greece, Block Magic methodology and technology were tested in a private school of Athens, Ellinogermaniki Agogi. Since 1995 it has been established the Research and Development Department as part of Ellinogermaniki Agogi, which deals with the design, development and implementation of the research activities in education and collaborates with universities and pedagogical institutions across Europe. Block Magic is one of the projects that the R&D department is currently involved and will last until December 2013. The research part of the project as it is mentioned above was implemented in Ellinogermaniki Agogi School. The school covers every degree of education from nursery to upper secondary and includes approximately 2.500 students. It focuses on the teaching of foreign languages,

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the application of new technologies and the research in education. Every classroom is equipped with a smart board and the majority of teachers are familiar with the use of technological products. Students are used to learn by using computer-based materials. Block Magic teacher kit was implemented and evaluated both in kindergarten and in primary school of Ellinogermaniki Agogi. In particular, three different versions of Block Magic were tested in two distinct experimental phases, the formative and the summative evaluation. The formative evaluation is the first experimental phase of Block Magic project. In this phase two versions of Block Magic teacher kit which differ in the hardware were tested in two distinct sessions. In the first session the initial Block Magic prototype which consisted   of   a   hand   held   device,   called   a   “magic   wand”   was   tested.   Technical   problems and mainly difficulties in handling with the wand led to the second version of Block Magic prototype. The second session was conducted by using the second version which   contained   a   reader   in   form   of   a   tablet,   called   “magic   board”.   It   should   be   mentioned that in this phase the evaluation tools that had been chosen to obtain feedback about the strengths and weaknesses of Block Magic methodology and technology were observations of children using Block Magic teacher kit and face-toface interviews with class teachers. The summative evaluation is the second experimental phase of Block Magic project. In this phase a different version of Block Magic hardware that was designed based on the data collected from the formative evaluation was tested. Furthermore, the software was enriched with more learning activities. The Block Magic methods and technologies were tested in a larger scale relative to formative evaluation as more children were involved and apparently this evaluation lasted more than the previous one. Face-to-face interviews were conducted in order to measure the attractiveness of the tool and its ability to contribute to specific cognitive skills and to strengthen social and working in group skills. The details of the implementations and the results of the evaluations are presented rigorously below.. 24.1. Phase one: Formative evaluation 24.1.1. Timeline and realization In Greece a recruitment phase of the teachers that participated in the formative evaluation was realized on October of 2012. The evaluation of both versions of Block Magic teacher kit took place in two distinct sessions in the period November December 2012 in kindergarten and in primary school of Ellinogermaniki Agogi. The evaluation in each educational institution and in each session lasted about 45 minutes. The teachers that were involved before the beginning of the trials were informed about the purpose of the project and their tasks. Afterwards, they familiarized themselves with Block Magic technology and carefully planned the implementation in class. Regarding the children three age-groups participated in the classroom tests: Age-group 4 Age-group 5 Age-group 6 to 7 It’s   important   to   note   that   all   the   trials   were   conducted   with   the   same   children.   Moreover, it should be mentioned that the target group of the tests included

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children with no special needs. The execution of the evaluation and the outcomes of the observations are described in details below. 24.1.2. Participants and Settings The primary school implementation conducted by one teacher and it contained two trials (wand-tablet) in which participated four children aged 6-7 years old. In kindergarten the two Block Magic prototypes were tested by two teachers to two groups of five children aged 4 and 5 years old. The execution of the tests took place in the classrooms where students are used to perform all their school activities. Laptops and the block magic prototypes were placed in their desks. Children worked alone and in groups because they executed both the individual and the social block magic scenarios. In particular, they implemented the four exercises of Block Magic that are included in two learning activities (Treasure hunt: Τhe  right  Block,  Attribute  group,  Missing  a  piece:  Complement  of  picture,  Logic   train) as individual and as social game scenario. Teachers chose the exercise that each child played and the ones that played as a group randomly. They also selected the level of difficulty that was suitable for each child based on its developmental status. Teachers introduced Block Magic system to the students and observed them. Their role was supportive and they intervene only in case there were arguments among them or needed further explanations to resolve the learning activities. The goal was that the children work autonomously. Finally, each child was allowed to play and resolve the exercises at its own pace. 24.1.3. Classroom  trials:  Οbservations  and  Outcomes 24.1.3.1. Primary School (6-7 years old) In primary school one group of four children aged 6-7 years old participated. They were tested in one social and four individual game scenarios in both sessions (wandtablet). The advanced level was selected for both scenarios and the trials started with the social game scenarios. Regarding the first session in the social game scenario children played the learning exercise   “The   right   block”.   They   seemed   very   motivated,   they   easily   solved   the   exercise and they really enjoy it. Two of them understood the exercise better and they were   the   “leaders”.   With   teacher’s   encouragement   they   managed   to   collaborate   although they had disagreements. One child  was  using  the  wand  but  he  couldn’t  easily   handle it. All the children had difficulty in using the wand. Moreover, sometimes the wand   didn’t   work   properly   and   due   to   disconnections   the   children   had   to   restart   the   system. In the second session children   tested   in   the   learning   exercise   “Attribute   Group”.   One   student   couldn’t   understand   the   exercise   at   the   beginning   and   with   the   teacher’s   encouragement he managed to follow the exercise. They easily solved the exercise without making mistakes. Children found the tablet very attractive and were very excited. They had arguments because all of them wanted to use the tablet. With teacher’s  help  they  started  to  collaborate.   In the individual game scenarios each child played one of the four exercises of the prototype.   The   “Missing   piece”   exercises   were   more   difficult   than   the   ones   in   “Treasure  hunt”.  However,  the  children  manage  to  solve  the  exercises  easily.  Only  one   child   needed   teacher’s   help   to   solve   the   exercise.   It   was   the   same   child   that   had   difficulty to follow the exercise also in the social game scenario.

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The children in both scenarios and in all trials liked Block Magic exercises and seem so satisfied that most of the times wanted to carry on with another exercise. They easily understood the instructions of the tool. Nevertheless, some of them got confused with the negative sentences of the exercises. The tablet proved to be more appropriate device than the wand for this age. Due to the difficulty in handling with the wand there was a decrease in motivation. 24.1.3.2. Kindergarten (4 years old) In kindergartner the first age group was children aged 4 years old. In the individual game scenario each child played a different exercise. In particular, in the wand trial the intermediate level was selected for all learning activities. In the tablet trial due to difficulties that children faced in the previous trial (wand trial) the intermediate level was chosen   for   the   “Treasure   hunt”   learning   activities   and   the   beginner   lever   for   the   “Missing  a  piece”  learning  activities. Children  found  more  difficult  the  ‘’Missing  a  piece’’  exercises  and  for  this  reason   in these exercises they made mistakes and they asked from the teacher further instructions. Furthermore, some of the students had difficulty in understanding the negative sentences. Nevertheless, the children managed to solve the exercises. The outlines of the blocks helped them to find the answers. In the social game scenario in the wand trial the group of five children managed to solve   the   exercise   “The   right   Block”   at   the intermediate level without making any errors.   However,   children   needed   motivation   and   teacher’s   encouragement   to   collaborate. When they came to an agreement they tried to help each other in order to use the wand. The same group of children in the tablet trial had to solve the exercise “Logic   train”   in   the   intermediate   level.   The   exercise   was   very   difficult   to   solve   for   children in this age and they made a lot of mistakes. Moreover, they asked for further instructions. One child had the leading role because he understood the exercise better than the others. In general during all the trials children were very motivated and found the tool attractive. They responded positively to the visual and the aural feedback of the software. Moreover, when they were asked if they would like to play again with Block Magic they responded positively. Finally, the children in both scenarios had strong difficulties   to   handle   the   wand;;   therefore   they   needed   teacher’s   support.   The   tablet   proved to be more easy to use and more attractive. However, technical problems appeared  in  both  prototypes  because  sometimes  they  didn’t  work  properly. 24.1.3.3. Kindergarten (5 years old) In the individual game scenario each child was tested in a different exercise. The intermediate level was selected for all learning activities. Children could follow the tool instructions and solved the exercises without making many mistakes. Nevertheless, they  couldn’t  handle   with  the   wand  and  the  teacher  sometimes  did  it  for  them.  In  the   first  trial  children  weren’t  as motivated as in the second probably due to the wand. In the second they seemed to be more satisfied because they found the tablet more attractive. In the social game scenario in the wand trial the children played the exercise “Complement   of   picture”   at   the   intermediate   level”   and   in   the   second   session   the   children  had  to  solve  the  exercise  “Logic  Train”  at  the  intermediate  level  too.  In  both   cases children responded positively to the aural and the visual presentation of the tool and solved the exercises easily.  However,  children  needed  teacher’s  help  to  work  as  a   group because some of them had more active role. Again, in the first trial the children

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quickly lost interest but in the second trial were more excited and enjoy it more. The difficulty of handling the  wand  probably  affected  the  children’s  motivation. In general terms children at this age found Block magic an attractive tool and all of them would like to play again with it.

Figure 4. Groopu scenario session in Greek with the BlockMagic kit

24.1.4. Face-to-face interviews with teachers: Outcomes In Greece the three teachers that participated in the evaluation have experience in teaching. The ones that teach in the kindergartner use traditional wooden blocks and are familiar with the use of computer based materials for teaching as they use frequently a smart table. The teacher in primary school uses software like Block Magic to enrich her teaching methods. Therefore, they found easy to learn and teach Block Magic methodology and technology. All of them agreed with the possibilities offering by Block Magic to improve the logical and mathematical skills of the students. Two of them also agreed to the development of social skills. However, they all had doubts about the improvement of creative and linguistic skills. Moreover, teachers   were   satisfied   with   children’s   performance   in   general   terms   because children understood the instructions of the tool and managed to solve the exercises. In particular, the teacher of the four years old children thinks that the “Missing  a  piece”  learning  activities  and  mainly  the  “Logic  Train”  are  difficult  for  this   age.   Therefore,   teacher’s   help   is   necessary   otherwise   the   exercises   can’t   be   solved.   Considering the 5 years old children the teacher found the exercises as moderately simple. The teacher of primary school believe that the exercises of the learning activity “Treasure   hunt’’   are   quite   simple   and   the   “Missing   a   piece”   exercises     are   neither   difficult nor simple but they are very interesting. However, she finds Block Magic learning activities difficult for three to four years old children. In addition, all teachers agreed that in the social game scenarios their help and encouragement  were  necessary  otherwise  most  of  the  times  children  couldn’t  come  to an agreement and decide their next steps. As far as the hardware is concerned teachers estimated that the wand is a difficult device to handle even for children aged 7 years old. The tablet is a more attractive and easy to use device according to their opinion. They also recommended that the

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technical problems that occurred should be overcome because they led to the decrease of children’s  motivation. To conclude, all teachers involved agreed that children enjoy learning in this way and   they   don’t   lose   interest as with traditional teaching methods. Block Magic motivated  even  the  children  that  they  wouldn’t  like  to  play  with  the  traditional  blocks.   One teacher recommended that Block Magic activities could be even more playful. 24.1.5. Phase two: Summative evaluation 24.1.5.1. Timeline and Realization The recruitment process seeking for teachers who are interested in Block Magic pedagogical approach realized on February of 2013. All teachers selected before conducting the trials were trained through seminars with the view to have an overview of the tasks they were going to perform and familiarize themselves with Block Magic methodology and technology. The trials took place on May 2013 in primary school and in kindergarten of Ellinogermaniki Agogi. Each trial was completed in 4 sessions of 40 minutes. There were three age-groups of children with no special needs: Age-group 4 Age-group 5 Age-group 6 to 7 Table 1. Ellinogermaniki Agogi – Kindergarten. Number of classes: 6 classes 5 years old children, 2 classes with 4 years old children; 25-28 children for each class. Teachers profile / Questions

Teacher A

Teacher B

Name: Age: Education: Working Experience Do you use logical blocks? Do you incorporate in your teaching methods technological tools? Do children work in groups in your class? Why are you interested in using Block Magic?

Rea Pappa 26 years old Bachelor degree 4 years We use wooden logical blocks. I sometimes use a smart table.”

Giota Natsikou 45 years old Bachelor degree 24 years We use wooden logical

Children are used to work in groups. “I am   interested   in   using such tools that encourage children to develop a  number  of  skills.”  

Children very often work in groups.

Implementation:

Rea Pappa will conduct the trial to 8 students aged 4 years old.

“I only  use  a  smart  table,  not  daily.”

“I find   Block   Magic   interesting   and   I   would like to incorporate it in my teaching methods as a complementary tool.   Although   I   don’t   think   that   this   kind of technological products can replace the traditional teaching methods.” Giota Natsikou will conduct the trial to 8 students aged 5 years old.

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Table 2. Ellinogermaniki Agogi – Primary school. 42 Classes, 7 classes in each grade, with children aged 6 to 12; 25-28 children for each class. Teachers profile / Questions

Teacher A

Name: Αge: Education:

Mary Zacharaki 39 years old Bachelor degree

Working Experience Do you use logical blocks? Do you incorporate in your teaching methods technological tools? Do children work in groups in your class?

17 years Yes

Why are interested in Block Magic? Implementation:

you using

Teacher B

Katerina Tsolakou 25 years old Bachelor degree Master’s degree:  ICT  in  Education 6 years Yes

Children very often work as a team.

Children are used to work in groups.

“I like   to   use   software that fit to my lesson plans and I would like to use Block Magic to enrich my teaching methods.” Μary   Zacharaki   will conduct the trial to 14 children aged 7 years old. Children very often work as a team.

“I always   search   for   methods   that   motivate children. I think that Block Magic motivates children, therefore I would  like  to  use  it  in  my  class.”

Katerina Tsolakou will conduct the trial to 14 children aged 7 years old. Children are used to work in groups.

24.1.6. 3Classroom trials:  Observations  and  Outcomes  based  on  Teachers’  Interviews 24.1.6.1. Primary School (6-7 years old) In primary school one group of four children aged 6-7 years old participated. They In primary school children enjoyed solving the Block Magic exercises because they thought they were playing a game. In particular, they were excited because they could catch the magic blocks, put them on the tablet and receive feedback from the computer. According  to  teachers’  opinion  children  were  very  motivated  and  especially  those  with   difficulty in concentration. They were all kept at their tasks until the end of the sessions. Children wanted to try again the exercises that found easy and some wanted to skip the difficult ones. In particular, some children found moderately difficult the learning activity  “Subtraction”  because  in  Greece  when  there  are  three  numbers  in  row  we put parenthesis   and   in   this   exercise   there   wasn’t   a   parenthesis.   Moreover,   in   the   learning   activity   “Counting’’   some     got   confused   with   the   instructions   of   the   tool   because   the   phrases   were   too   long   and   they   didn’t   read   and   hear   them   carefully.   “Memory”   and “Replace  the  Sequence”  were  the  most  difficult  exercises  and  “Creative  Drawing”  and   “Slices  the  shape”  were  the  ones  that  they  enjoyed  more  probably  due  to  the  images. Regarding  children’s  performance,  they  managed  to  understand  the  instructions  of   the   tool   and   to   solve   all   the   exercises.   A   few   times   they   asked   for   teacher’s   help.   Mainly,   they   needed   teacher’s   support   when   technological   problems   occurred.  

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Sometimes due to disconnections  the  Block  Magic  system  didn’t  operate  or  the  tablet   didn’t  identify  the  selected  block.   However, in the social game scenario children sometimes had disagreements and teacher’s  support  was  essential  especially  if  more  than  two  children  had to collaborate. If the team consisted of two children, the one was handling the computer and the other was putting the blocks on the tablet after having discussed the solution with each other, therefore it was easier to come to an agreement. The collaboration between four children most of the times was problematic. In general, teachers stated that children were encouraged by the tool to exchange ideas and to cooperate with each other. Nevertheless, the improvement of social skills was seen critically. All teachers as depicted in table 1 above have experience in teaching and are familiar with the use of technological tools. They agreed that in comparison to traditional logical blocks, Block Magic is a more attractive tool due to the computer and encourages children to participate actively to a variety of activities. Children use the blocks in different ways and in different activities and for this reason they were encouraged to use their imagination. Furthermore, they believe that Block Magic contributes to the development mainly of mathematical and logical skills but also of creative, language and strategic skills. Therefore, they would like to incorporate Block Magic in their teaching methods as they stated before the beginning of the trials. However, they commented that Block Magic activities are difficult for children 2.5-4 years old and recommended the improvement of the aural presentation of the tool. 24.1.6.2. Kindergarten First age-group (4 years old) The teacher that participated in the evaluation stated that Block Magic contributes to the  development  of  cognitive  skills  and  motivates  even  children  who  don’t  participate   actively with the traditional teaching methods. She underlined quite a few times during the  interview  that  it  captures  students’  attention  and  stimulates logical thinking. As   far   as   children’s   performance   is   concerned   the   teacher   evaluated   it   as   good   because they managed to solve the exercises and to cooperate with each other. However,   they   couldn’t   solve   the   learning   activities   “Αddition   and   Subtraction”   because   at   this   age   they   haven’t   learnt   yet   addition   and   subtraction.   They   made   an   attempt   to   count   the   images   but   teacher’s   support   was   necessary.   Moreover,   they   got   confused  with  the  instructions  of  the  learning  activity,  “Counting”  because  they   forgot that   the   exercise   stops   by   putting   a   red   block   in   the   tablet.   “Memory”   was   the   most   difficult learning activity according to her opinion and some children got frustrated because  they  couldn’t  find  the  solution. In addition, she identified some drawbacks of the system. For example the children at  the  age  of  4  can’t  read  and  the  implementation  of  the  social  game  scenario  is  difficult   to   more   than   ten   children   because   headphones   can’t   be   used.   Furthermore,   children   don’t  know  how  to  use  the  computer,  therefore it is impossible for one teacher to help all   the   children   at   the   same   time.   She   also   mentioned   that   they   can’t   distinguish   the   thickness of magic blocks. In terms of creativity, she would prefer children to create their own drawings with magic blocks. To conclude, children were very excited during the sessions because they thought that the computer speaks to them and they manipulated real blocks. Moreover, they found the tablet very attractive and all of them look forward to play again. The teacher despite the challenges would like to use Block Magic as an additional teaching tool because  as  she  commented  “It  provides  a  wide  variety  of  exercises  that  are  difficult  to   play  in  traditional  settings”.

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24.1.6.3. Kindergarten Second age-group (5 years old) The teacher from kindergarten although she keeps a skeptical stance against the use of computer-based materials identified as good points of Block Magic the autonomous and the funny way of learning. The teacher stated that all children remained happy and concentrated until the end of sessions while when they implement some activities with the traditional logical blocks sometimes get bored. She was   satisfied   with   children’s   performance   because   they   resolve   all   the   exercises and mainly asked for her help because they couldn’t  use  the  computer.  They   were all wearing headphones because they could hear better the instructions and at this age  children  can’t  read.  Some  were  careful;;  others  mainly  due  to  their  enthusiasm  were   trying to guess the solution without paying attention to the instructions of the tool. They   didn’t   try   to   solve   the   learning   activities   “Subtraction”   and   “Addition”   because   they   haven’t   been   educated   about   it   at   this   level.   The   creative   exercises   were   their   favorites  and  the  “Memory”  was  a  difficult  exercise that many wanted to skip. In general she recommended the instructions of the tool to be shorter and clearer. Moreover, regarding the creative exercises she believes that children should be free to create whatever they imagine without any constraint from the system. She also suggested an improvement in the aural presentation of the tool. Although she considers as difficult task to implement Block Magic to more than ten  children  mainly  because  children  don’t  know  how  to  use  computers  she  would  like   to incorporate Block Magic in her teaching as a complementary tool. 24.1.7. Conclusions This document presented in details the implementation of Block Magic in Greece that was realized in kindergarten and in primary school of Ellinogermaniki Agogi in three distinct experimental phases during the formative and the summative evaluation. The   outcomes   of   the   evaluation   revealed   that   Block   Magic   increases   children’s   motivation and encourage autonomous learning. Children enjoyed playing Block Magic activities and most of them are looking forward to play again. The positive effect of the tool was identified by the teachers. Therefore, their attitude towards Block Magic methodology and technology was positive. They stated that it contributes to the development of cognitive and social skills. Moreover, they agreed that in comparison to traditional logical Block Magic provides a wide range of activities. To sum up, their recommendations regarding the drawbacks of the system will be taken into consideration and Block Magic software and hardware will be further improved. In this way the final product will be prepared and it will be disseminated in schools around Europe as a new teaching tool which introduces a new pedagogical approach.

25. Transcultural experiences of Block Magic methodology: Observations in Germany 25.1. Education of 3 to 7 years old children in Germany In Germany, early education starts for children from the age of 3 years with the kindergarten. The kindergarten education has a focus on the acquirement of basic skills

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like social skills and creativity, and the development and strengthening of personal resources, e.g. soft skills. Especially the linguistic education of the children is important (KMK, 2013a). Preschool is in Germany part of the education in kindergarten. In preschool, children from the age of five, i.e., in the last year of kindergarten, are prepared for the primary school. Here the children already learn basic mathematical and logical skills. On average, children in Germany start visiting school at the age of six. Primary school includes the grades 1 to 4 (KMK, 2013b). Children spend a huge part of their life in education institutions (Fratton-Meusel, 2008, pp. 15). The social impulse of the family is increasingly overlapping with those of the kindergarten and schools (Hurrelmann, 2006, pp. 31). Accordingly, kindergarten and schools contribute the most to the social and emotional learning (Fratton-Meusel, 2008, pp. 15). School should not be considered only as a learning place and a broadcaster for knowledge, because it plays a crucial role in the personality development of children. Therefore, it is important to integrate cognitive skills and social learning strategies within the lessons (ibd. pp. 16). Block Magic provides a novel teaching method, which enables the stimulation of important cognitive skills in addition to crucial key skills like social and creative skills. The final prototype of the teaching kit Block Magic was internationally evaluated in Greece, Spain and Germany, at different educational institutions. Teachers had implemented the tool in their lessons, and then evaluated the performance of the teaching kit. The experiences with Block Magic in Germany will be described below, and the results of summative evaluation will be at the center of investigation.. 25.2. Timeline and realization The target group for generating important evaluation results of the summative evaluation in Germany consists of four teachers, two classes of healthy children and two classes of children with special needs. Within the two classes the social and the individual scenarios were played in a minimum of 5 sessions of 20 minutes. Children spend a huge part of their life in education institutions (Fratton-Meusel, 2008, pp. 15). The social impulse of the family is increasingly overlapping with those of the kindergarten and schools (Hurrelmann, 2006, pp. 31). Accordingly, kindergarten and schools The recruitment of educational institutions for the summative evaluation started in February 2013. Therefore, UNIDR tried to cover the four defined age groups; age group 4, age group 5 and age groups 6 to 7, which implicates the educational institutions; kindergarten implicit preschool and primary school. UNIDR contacted several institutions. However, due to several delays in the development of the software, and changes in the schedule of the trials, the implementation could only be realized in one of the schools, namely the Dresden International School in Dresden (school description Annex 1 of this document). The trials were performed with the children of the preschool of the Dresden International School. The first step of the implementation was the training of involved teachers. At the 20th of September the Block Magic teaching kit was presented to all attending teachers. The target of the teaching tool, the methodology, technology and all the exercises were presented and explained in details. Teachers had the chance to handle the kit themselves, by solving exercises and clarifying open questions. Afterwards, the

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researcher gave instructions how to integrate the Block Magic teaching kit in their lessons. Subsequently their expectations and personal data concerning their teaching experiences as well as their use of digital media in their lessons were collected, and, the rooms for the implementation and the evaluation were chosen. Finally, a timetable for evaluation with  the  preschool’s  administrator  was  created.   The trials took place in the following week from the 23rd of September till the 27th of September. Each of the chosen children participated in one trial a day, overall in 5. Two  trials  were  performed  in  the  morning  between  9  o’clock  and  11:30   am (between morning singing and lunch), and three between 2:15 pm and 3:15 pm (after afternoon sleep). Each session lasted at least for 20 minutes, some lasted up to 30 minutes. Each day two trail sessions were conducted, so that each of the four classes played five times. On the first day, children were taught how to use Block Magic. After conducting the five trials the four involved teachers were interviewed to express their experience with Block Magic. The interviews were conducted afternoon in the school on the 27th of September. At least one teacher of the preschool was always present in the trial. Sometimes there was also an additional trainee of the school attendant. Each teacher sat mainly at a table and changed sometimes shortly to other tables. He or she observed the child or the children and operated on the laptop. If necessary they supported the child or the children in solving a task. Furthermore, the sessions were attended by two researchers, who solved technical problems, observed the sessions and helped the teachers giving support to the students. The  researcher’s  team  also  prepared  the  Block  Magic  teaching  kits  before  each  session   and removed them afterwards. The aim of the summative evaluation was the evaluation of the attractiveness and the abilities of Block Magic to contribute to specific cognitive skills as mathematical, logical, strategic or linguistic, and to strengthen social skills like working in group skills and creativity. In total, 13 preschool students of the four classes participated in the trials of the summative evaluation. The children were 4 or 5 years old. One of the children became ill and participated one day only. 12 children from 4 different classes were effective attendants during all the days of the trials, which consisted of 6 males and 6 females. As mentioned above the sessions with the teaching kit were led by the corresponding teachers, who were previously trained and are already familiar with Block Magic. The teachers introduced Block Magic to the children and provided feedback whenever necessary. The teachers were partly teaching assistants and partly preschool teachers. All of them were familiar with the children; their developmental status and needs. The trials took place in the conference room of the preschool. The room was big enough to accommodate three tables. The children were close to each other but also far enough apart. Moreover, the teachers and researchers were always able to give spontaneously support without getting the kids disturb each other. In the room there were at the same time two individual scenarios and one group scenario with three or four children. There was again one group scenario and two individual scenarios. On each table one Block Magic Kit (Laptop, Magic Board and Logical Blocks) was provided. At one table sat a group of 4 to 5 children, on the other two tables only one child was sitting.

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In total 4 children played the individual scenario, 4 children in 2 groups played the group scenario. The setting remained constantly each day; the groups had always the same assignment, specifically to provide an authentic and casual cooperation. Children were allowed to play the exercises they want (i.e., no predefined set of exercises was assigned). The number of exercises played was also not predetermined. Children were allowed to play one after another for at least 20 minutes and resolve as many exercises as they could at their own pace. It was not possible to take photos, because we did not get the permissions of parents and teachers. Although the evaluation was executed in Germany the language used in Block Magic was English, because it is an international school, where English is spoken predominantly. 25.3. Timeline and realization In order to evaluate the attractiveness and the ability to encourage competences, the trials were observed by researchers from Dresden University of Technology, and the data of the software were analysed. Afterwards, the teachers were interviewed to evaluate their experience with Block Magic and their opinion regarding the effectiveness of this teaching kit. A team of two researchers from the University observed the trials. 25.3.1. Observations In individual scenarios it was possible to observe a single child playing alone at one Block Magic kit. Nevertheless, in group scenarios children had to rely on their own competences in listening carefully to tasks and solving them. It should be noted that they did not learn how to read, hence listening was a precondition to work with Block Magic. Except one, all children were quite focused in this scenario. The fourth child also showed interest in the tasks up to the point (merely after half of the time elapsed) when he lost his focus, and started watching other children. Despite the overwhelmingly concentrated efforts of the children, they still needed their teachers’  support. For instance, two of them were unconfident in handling blocks and solving exercises. Several times they needed the encouragement of their teachers to understand that nothing bad would happen if the solution was not right, and when the teacher left the table for a short time they often did not go on solving the task on their own. Instead of that these children often manipulated the blocks without using the magic board to create forms and pictures with them. Regular encouragement was necessary to sustain the motivation of the children. They quickly abandoned the task when they failed to solve the exercises or did not know the solution. Making a comparison between the first and last days we noticed that the children became increasingly self-confident and worked more autonomously. One child even started to use the laptop to move to the next exercise after having already solved the previous one. All children used the teaching kits very prudent and thought a short while before putting a stone onto the tablet. Therefore, the previously used trial-and-error strategy was replaced by more stable and focused reaction.

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In the group-play scenario every four children formed a group. On the first day five children played in one of the groups, and on the last day one boy had to change from the single to the group scenario due to technical problems in his teaching kit. Contrary to single play scenarios this setting was characterized by much more vividness. Collective children were more self-confident using the Block Magic kit. They did not think a long time before putting a block at the magic board. It was often difficult for the teachers to calm the children down, and to encourage them to collaborate instead of competing with each other. Every child wanted to assume the leading role putting the blocks onto the Magic Board. In one of the groups a girl gave up participating. Another difficulty included the children concentration while listening to the exercises. In the group scenario the children often disturbed each other and did not listen carefully till the end. But instead, some of them used the trial-and-error strategy and just put any blocks on the Magic Board without knowing the instructions. One group was very brisk. After finding out how to skip current exercises and move to the next one they loved to click on the laptop. To some extent it seemed to be more interesting than the kit itself, and resulting in them skipping lots of tasks. For that reason, the encouragement and stimulation of the teachers were necessary to keep on the task. The trials showed that the concentration of children increases considerably amongst smaller groups. A group of three children seemed to work better than a group of four children. Smaller groups made it easier for the children to concentrate on the task in hand, to cooperate with each other, and to reduce conflicts or the exclusion of any child. Despite the above mentioned difficulties the children completed the exercises and helped each other to comprehend the tasks. Nevertheless, the teachers support was often necessary to coordinate them, to encourage them to keep on the tasks and made them play as a team and not as several individual rivals. Interestingly, the children laughed a lot and seemed to have loads of fun all together. None of the groups got tired playing with Block Magic and clearly enjoyed using it. 25.3.2. Data evaluation The Block Magic teaching kit offers the possibility to analyze collected data, such as the number of exercises played in previous sessions, the type of exercises successfully accomplished and those that were skipped or never solved. This data provides a valuable feedback to the teacher, and recommend suggestions what skills should be targeted in the following sessions. After concluding the trials, we analyzed the generated data to get an impression of the number of exercises played, and how many mistakes were made by the children and type of mistakes. An overall of 584 exercises were played in all trials, from which 347 (59.0%) exercises were skipped (see diagram 1). If tasks were skipped it could mean that the children had failed to solve them, or simply did not listen to the instructions again. Some instructions were very frequently repeated, which could be the reason for the high rate of skips. Completely played exercises were either solved at the first time or they were skipped once or more before. From the tasks that were played completely 140 were solved perfectly (without any mistake) and 97 were solved faulty (1 to 9 mistakes).

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Figure 5: Overall skipped and completely played exercises

Looking at the individual play scenarios some differences become obvious. Firstly, the amount of skipped and completely played exercises varied between 22.0% and 72.0% (see diagram 2). These results emphasize that the successful play of the children depends on the exercises, on the developmental status of the children, and of course on personalrelated issues e.g., the motivation, language skills and the level of concentration. Group 1 was much more concentrated than Group 2 in solving the exercises of the social scenario and had skipped only few of them. However, Group 1 was less successful in solving tasks in comparison to Group 2.

Figure 6: Skipped and completely played exercises per scenario

Secondly the rate of perfectly solved to faulty solved exercises varied between 44.0% and 71.0%. Except of Group 1, at least half of the exercises in all the scenarios were solved without a mistake (see diagram 3).

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Figure 7. Faulty and perfectly solved exercises per scenario

What seems to be also interesting are the differences between the single exercises, and that not all of them were played equally. Diagram 4 hereunder illustrates the percentages (and total amount) of faulty solved, perfectly solved and skipped tasks. It shows that Subtraction exercises, the exercises Memory, Replace the Sequence and Matching were often skipped. Observations revealed that both; the children and the teachers did not prefer those exercises because of their high level of difficulty, and the fact that most of them had to repeatedly listen to the long instructions of these exercises because they were too difficult to comprehend. At the exercise Memory, children often tried to look again at the hidden block. Exercises like Complement of Picture or Creative Recognition were seldom skipped. The observation showed that these tasks had a well-balanced level of difficulty and therefore attracted a lot of children from this age group.

Figure 8. Faulty, perfect and skipped exercises by type of exercise

Considering only non-skipped exercises the following assertions might be made. Exercises like The Right Block, Creative Drawing, Name the Block and Slice the Shape were often perfectly solved (see diagram 5). As observations showed, the tasks

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The Right Block, Creative Drawing and Name the Block were not difficult to solve for the children. Slice the Shape was hard to understand, but the kids managed to remember the right solution because of the limited number of variations. The children answer to exercises like Attribute Group, Complement of Picture, Logic Train and Creative Train were more frequently faulty (see diagram 5). Actually, the exercise of Attribute Group was not quite complicated for the children, but they often used the same blocks again and they failed to develop a selection strategy to follow. Complement of Picture was difficult because the children had to consider all different attributes, for instance they often forgot to regard the right size. Logic Train and Creative Train were quite abstract for this young aged group. Observations also suggest that although subtraction exercises, Addition - Number based and Replace a Sequence exercises were not played often, nevertheless, most of them were correctly solved, this is because teachers tended to show more support to the children in solving those exercises.

Figure 9. Perfectly and faulty solved exercises

Another interesting investigation is the development of perfectly and faulty solved exercises upon comparing the first and last trials. This comparison was not easy to perform but it showed tendencies. One problem is that the exercises carried out on day one are not necessarily the same that were made on the last day. For example, looking at Group 1 and Child 1 a relative congruency between the second and the last day can be established. Therefore, the comparison here makes sense. It shows positive results; both Group 1 and Child 1 have increased the rate of perfectly solved exercises over time (see diagrams 6 & 7). Group 1 increased the rate of perfectly solved exercises from 45.0% to 80.0% and Child 1 increased it from 54.0% to 71.0%. Nevertheless, it has to be emphasized that this comparison is based on a relatively small number of exercises and only tendencies can be shown. In further studies a controlled pre- and end-test would be reasonable. Moreover, it should always be

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considered that the teachers could have helped their students in solving some tasks. Thus, we should not suppose that correctly solved tasks were exclusively solved by the children themselves.

Figure 10. Comparison between the second and the last days - Group1 and Child 1

25.3.3. Evaluation of teachers The interviews with involved teachers showed the experiences gained during the trials with the Block Magic teaching kit. We were able to identify profound problems, limitations and strong points of the technology and methodology, and how far Block Magic teaching kit was able to fulfill the targets defined in this project. All four involved teachers were females. One of the preschool teachers has 20 years of experience in teaching preschool children, the others have 13 years, 5 years and 1 year of experience respectively. 25.3.3.1. First impressions and expectations Before the trials started the teachers were asked about their first impressions and expectations on the Block Magic teaching kit, and to what extent they integrate computer assisted learning in their lessons. First impressions of the teachers were positive. Especially that the concept is hands-on and does not operate only with the computer. Moreover, the developed methodology of generating exercises with shapes and colours was positively welcomed. The basic concept of manipulating logical objects seems to appeal to the teachers. However, three of the teachers felt also somehow sceptical. For example, one of them feared the addictive potential for some children from being exposed more often to the computer. Another saw difficulties concerning the developmental status of the children, because the methodology in its requirements seems to be very challenging for children within the assigned age-group of 4 and 5 years old. Teachers were optimistic when they were asked about their expectations regarding the performance of Block Magic and its role in the stimulation of  children’s  skills. In their opinion, Block Magic challenges creativity, logical thinking, and use of strategies. Another expectation is that the methodology helps to distinguish the difficulty level of the tasks and keeps the children engaged. Finally, one teacher was curious about how it integrates   with   the   child’s   learning   abilities   and   how   it   helps   increasing   their   knowledge.

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Computer assisted learning did not play an active role in the teachers’ previous lessons in preschool, and computers were mainly used only to show photos or videos. As a result, a teaching methodology as Block Magic is considered new for the children. 25.3.3.2. Experiences with the teaching kit After the trials were completed, the teachers were interviewed by the researchers using a semi-structured questionnaire to see how they evaluate the teaching technology and the methodology of Block Magic in details. The involved children were between 4 and 5 years old. The teachers believed that the system has limited suitability for these young children. Most of the 4 years old children needed a lot of support and encouragement from the teachers to continue. Some of them had difficulties in following the exercises, understanding the instructions or keeping focused. However, the teachers saw the potential of this kit and believed that the system was more appropriate for the 5 years old and older children, and should be amended to suit better younger children. In general, the teachers noticed that the children found the visual and aural presentation of the system very attractive. However, they were neutral in their opinion regarding how balanced the use of text, graphics, sound, and pictures was, and if the children did get bored or not. The children at this group age can’t   read, the text was not clear and legible for them, and both the text and tasks instructions were too long to follow. As a result, most of the children did not wait to listen until the end and missed the instructions. It should be noted that their understanding of the instruction were highly dependent on the difficulty of the exercise and their developmental status. The teachers evaluated some exercises as more appropriate for children older than 6 or 7 (e.g., Subtraction or Memory), and therefore the participant 4 and 5 years old children needed further instructions and guidance from their teachers. The wording of the exercises was also often too complicated, and a lot of words were not understandable for them. For that reason the teachers were providing synonyms to explain. In general, the children faced no problem handling the magic tablet. They understood the principle of the magic board and were able to interact with the computer. Nevertheless, the sensitivity of the magic board was often problematic. The children had to be very careful when adding blocks one after another on the board. This often seemed to inhibit their motivation to play. Often the play was interrupted by crashes in the system, caused by too enthusiastic children to play. One of the main targets of the Block Magic teaching kit is to motivate children to learn and practice their skills with fun and enjoyment. Overall, the teachers noticed that the children were motivated to play with Block Magic. However, the motivation and the degree of frustration were directly connected with their sense of achievement. The very fact that the children were not able to understand the instructions or solve several exercises had decreased their motivation and increased their frustration. During the trials, teachers had to encourage the children to keep performing the task until it’s finished. Especially during the social scenario, where they had problems with their concentration; the children were very easily distracted by each other in the group. But still, the teachers believe that they looked forward to playing again with Block Magic. The opinions of the teachers about the most interesting aspects of Block Magic were different. One teacher believed that the handling of the magic board and the blocks was more interesting than the tasks themselves. Another stated that beyond the

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manipulation of objects the fact of working with a computer was especially interesting for the children. The observations showed that the children were very curious to play with a computer based teaching method. Other very interesting facts for the children were the individual addressing of every child, because the computer uttered the name of each child, and the presentation of the figure blocki, which facilitated the children ability to identify themselves with the exercises. When asked about the favourite exercises for the children, the teachers replied that the exercises involving many pictures, and the ones they were able to solve were liked the most by the children, e.g., Missing Piece or Complement of Pictures. However, the teachers believed that it is also dependent on the children themselves – some of them like algebra others like finding a Missing Piece. In total, within the scope of the Block Magic methodology seventeen different exercises were generated. The teachers were requested to evaluate all the games that were played in their classrooms, and how far they were able to develop creative, mathematic, logical, language, strategic or social skills. These results were very important to evaluate, regardless of whether the exercises were able to contribute to the specific cognitive or social skills they were generated for, or not. Overall, the evaluation of the teachers in respect of developed skills was consistent with the definition of the methodology. Indeed, the exercises generated for the stimulation of creative skills were critically investigated. In the opinion of 3 out of 4 teachers the exercise Creative Drawing did not really develop any creative skills. In general, they believed that creative skills are very hard to stimulate with predetermined objects and limited possibilities of variation. Regarding the   social   skills   teachers’   criticism was that solving the Block Magic exercises  in  groups  alone  can’t  really  develop  social  skills.  Here the encouragement of the teachers in motivating the children to collaborate and coordinate the work in groups has stimulated skills. In the opinion of the teachers, new specific exercises for social skills should be generated within the system. Considering the age of the children the teachers criticised the difficulty level of some exercises. In particular, the learning activities Addition and Subtraction, were not appropriate for some 4 years old children. Additionally the exercises Creative Train, Logic Train and Memory addressing all four attributes were too far complicated to be solved by young children. In order to keep the children motivated to play with the teaching tool, and to avoid any increase of frustration, these exercises should adapt amended variations of difficulty-levels. In contrast to other exercises e.g., Creative Drawing and Creative Recognition, these seem to be too easy. The children could also get bored and the motivation will still decrease as well. The teachers evaluated the text of the instructions as too long, and the children were often unable to listen carefully and understand the information provided by the teaching tool until the end. The instructions should be short. Furthermore, they should be outlined step by step, in order to help the children develop strategies for solving the tasks, particularly in the group-play scenario where long instructions became problematic and the level of concentration was low because the children could easily distract one another. One important aspect of early education is to promote the imagination. This skill is not only a precondition of creativity but also a precondition for cognitive skills like mathematical skills. The opinion of the teachers differs about whether Block Magic is able to stimulate the imagination of the children or not. Some teachers observed that Block Magic encouraged children to use their imagination only in exercises like

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Creative Drawing. Other teachers found that exercises like Logic Train or Slice the Shape enhanced the imagination of the children as well. To stimulate mathematical skills the Block Magic kit offers a lot of exercises to practice. The trial showed that younger children were unable to comprehend mathematical problems asked by the system, and so most of them failed to provide any solutions. Here the instructions of the teachers were important to introduce specific problems to the students, particularly that the system did not offer any explanations to them. However, for practicing specific mathematical problems like counting, the curriculum of Block Magic offers very motivating alternatives for children. Teachers believed that children at the age of 4 and 5 were unable to develop strategies that could help them solving exercises. Accordingly, they often used a trialand-error strategy, or they solved problems by using their memory or things learnt by heart instead of following a certain strategy. Autonomously solving exercises and learning without the help of the teachers is not possible with Block Magic at this group age. The teachers think that children at the age of 4 and 5 need a lot of support and encouragement from their teachers, especially in the group play scenario, where the guidance of the teachers was important. The children did not really appear to cooperate with each other while they were solving the learning activities in groups. At this age, the children are incapable of defining a strategy to share and allocate tasks in a group, and to exchange ideas and opinions in order to decide their next step. This emphasizes the important role the teacher played in encouraging the children to collaborate. Nevertheless, the children were very motivated to solve exercises together and almost all children within each group were active participants. Teachers observed the different challenges the children stumbled upon while playing or practicing with Block Magic, such as, solving difficult exercises, learning the logic of handling blocks, and cooperating with each other in groups. Other challenges were the concentration on the wordy instructions and the requirement of prior knowledge. Teachers believed that Block Magic is an interactive tool because of the magic board and the feedback. Nevertheless, they mentioned that the system should be revised concerning its’ instructions, and how these should be shortened, emotive and presented step by step to guarantee a better interaction and to keep children motivations boosted. Some technical problems occurred during the trials. Sometimes the board did not recognize any of the blocks and sometimes the board recognized the blocks but did not respond correctly. In some cases the board disconnected itself. Furthermore, the feedback was sometimes wrong; instead of offering a feedback it mentioned “blue circle thin  small”  or  something  similar  but  this  was not the attribute of the block on the board. Sometimes the board gave negative feedback for correct answers and sometimes the audio-track did not work correctly (i.e., either there was no sound or only the first sentence was read out loudly). Often the blocks had to be put on different positions on the board until the board recognizes them. Another problem was that sometimes the magic board recognized the same block two times when it was put only once on the board, especially in the counting tasks, where it became confusing and frustrating for the children. When asking the teachers to list the strengths and weaknesses of the teaching kit the teachers outlined the following benefits: Block Magic offers a new way of learning by featuring interesting alternative teaching methods. The tool is very interesting for

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children because of the integrated computer. Moreover, using not only a Personal Computer but also touching real objects is a significant strength, particularly due to the importance the haptic aspect implies for the conditioning of learned stuff. Another mentioned strength is that the system offers teachers the possibilities to challenge students in accordance with their individual intellectual level. Finally, the concepts of certain exercises were commended, e.g., the identification of shapes, the use of different colours, and the displaying of numbers. As weaknesses the teachers identified the following aspects: sometimes the instructions of the system were hard to understand and the children were confused in the following steps. Particularly, the compact instructions when the children were asked to use different colours of blocks to give different command to the computer were very challenging for the children. There was no graduation in the difficulty levels. Often the beginner-level starts at a very challenging level and the children were unable to understand the principle of the exercise. Furthermore the difficult-levels were not consistently defined. If not all attributes matter at certain beginner-levels, they matter at some others. After receiving the teachers’ feedback it should be continuously defined that e.g. only two attributes should be addressed within the beginners-level of all exercises. Additionally, the technical problems were really frustrating for the children, especially when the tool showed wrong answers although the tasks were correctly solved. The teachers believed that the exercises are interesting but should be revised to get better results. Also, they emphasized that the use of Block Magic should always be coupled   with   the   teachers’   support. They propose to have a prior introduction to the software in addition to more support and advice. Furthermore, the implementation of the social scenario was viewed as a failure without the encouragement and intervention of the teachers to get children collaborate together. Therefore, the exercises and the feedback should be designed to ease the collaboration of small groups. In comparison, teachers did not think of Block Magic kit as an alternative tool that creates more possibilities than traditional logical blocks. Traditional logical blocks and Block Magic are just two different ways of learning. Both methods have different benefits. Block magic meets the new IT-generation and is connected to a computer and is interactive, but it is  limited  in  creativity  and  imagination.  It’s  another  way  of  learning   and an interesting addition, but it cannot replace other ways of learning especially not in the current state of development. Traditional blocks train different skills than the Block   Magic   Tool.   In   the   opinion   of   the   teachers   it’s   more   creative   to   use   logical   blocks  in  an  own  way;;  with  the  computer  there’s  less  imagination. All teachers would like to integrate Block Magic in their teaching methods. They believe the system encourages more, helps to learn listening to instructions but it would be better to use headphones for each child or different rooms for different kits. They estimates Block Magic as a good teaching method, but especially at the beginning instructions by the teacher are very important. If the children are 6 and 7 years old Block Magic is more suitable for autonomously learning than for children at preschool age. There should be more easy tasks and more progression in the difficulty-levels and less software problems. 25.4. Conclusion The Block Magic teaching kit is assumed to offer teachers and children a novel teaching method as to contribute to specific cognitive skills as mathematical, logical, strategic or linguistic and to promote social skills like working in groups and

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developing creativity. Furthermore, the aim is to motivate children to learn and practice their skills with fun and enjoyment. The implementation of the Block Magic teaching kit in Germany took place at the preschool level of the Dresden International School with 4 classes and with 4 and 5 years old children. Teachers implemented the teaching kit in their lessons and evaluated the performance of Block Magic after the trials. To complete the results of the summative evaluation researchers observed the trials and analysed the software data afterwards. Regarding the addressed skills of the exercises the teachers confirmed that the several generated exercises of the Block Magic methodology are able to stimulate almost all the defined skills. However, the stimulation of creative skills through Block Magic is seen critical. In the opinion of the teacher the generated exercise can’t  really   develop creative skills. In general the teachers believe creative skills are very hard to stimulate with predetermined objects and few possibilities of variation. Additionally, the concept of stimulating social skills should be revised. Within the system, there should be generated specific exercises for the social skills because the solving of the Block  Magic  exercises  in  groups  alone  can’t  really  develop  social  skills.  Furthermore,   the revision of the difficulty-levels and the instructions was recommended. Especially within the young age-groups long and complicated instructions and less suitable difficulty-levels are problematic, and can decrease the motivation respectively increase the frustration enormously. These recommendations were confirmed by the observation of the researchers, too. The analysis of the software data also showed differences between the difficulty levels. While some of them were nearly too easy others were much too difficult for this age-group. These analyses corresponded with the estimations of  the  teacher’s. Block Magic as a teaching method for autonomous learning is seen critical within the age-group.  The   children  needed  a  lot  of  teachers’  support  of  the  teachers  to  solve   the exercises. Especially during the social scenario, the encouragement of the teachers to collaborate and keep on task is essential. The combination of observations and analysis of the software data also proved that especially at the beginning of learning a support for developing basic understanding and solving strategies is essential. The technical problems that occurred during the trials were very critical. The RFID technology should be revised because sometimes the transfer of signals between the magic board and the computer did not always function properly, and blocks were not read or feedback was given wrong. Nevertheless, teachers evaluated Block Magic as a new interesting, complementary teaching method which allows challenges to the children according to their individual intellectual level. All teachers would like to integrate the tool as an additional method within their lessons. Furthermore, the teachers commented the concept of the teaching kit. Using not only a computer but also touching real objects is a big strength because the haptic aspect is very important for the conditioning of learning matters. Furthermore the tool with the integrated computer is very interesting for children because it is advanced and interacts with them. The children had a lot of fun and practiced the learning exercises with fun, enjoyment and curiosity.

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26. Transcultural experiences of Block Magic methodology: Observations in Spain 26.1. Methodology In Spain, the Block Magic evaluation was done with 54 children and 9 teachers in two rounds: a formative evaluation and a summative evaluation/trial. The first cycle tested version 1 of Block Magic in which the student-system interaction was through the magic wand. In the second cycle the trial was done with the magic board (i.e. version 2 of the system). In both cycles the single play and the social play scenarios were tested.

Figure 11. Schematic structure of the methodologic process

UB target is inclusive classes of different age-groups. Four of the students in the second implementation round were students with special needs: one student with autism and three foreign students with low knowledge of the main language of the school. In general, these students are treated with care, but are not separated from the rest of the class for any of the activities. In the Block Magic trials they were treated in the same inclusive manner. For the Formative evaluation two sessions were realized, one with the 6 children of different ages from the rural school and one with 3 primary school children at the age of 7. In total, 9 students and 3 teachers evaluated the first Block Magic prototype in Spain. This phase produced recommendations on the improvement of the Block Magic hardware and software which led to the implementation of Block Magic v.2. The Summative evaluation was a larger implementation and testing of the Block Magic system v.2 and all the learning activities. In total, 45 children from different classes of a primary school in Barcelona played in individual and group manner the Block Magic exercises. Each child participated in four distinct 20 minutes sessions in different days. The sessions were supervised by the regular teachers (three teachers were involved)   and   the   research   team.   The   researchers’   visit   allowed   collecting   evidence of the children and teachers’   motivation   and   attitudes.   Furthermore,   the   UB   team was able to observe the independent and collaborative learning. Teachers were interviewed a day after the end of the classroom trial. They were interviewed separately in a semi-structured style using a common for the Block Magic evaluation questionnaire. In the summative evaluation cycle, just before the start of the classroom trial, each student passed a test examining his/her logical skills (a pre-test). The test was done individually to each child with a researcher and with a limited set of traditional logical

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blocks. The same test was repeated after the Block Magic trials (a post-test), examining again the   students’   logical   skills.   In   the   pre   and   post-tests students were given 12 exercises always in the same order. The researchers were marking down whether the student resolves correctly the exercise, whether he/she makes errors (marking up to three errors and then passing to the next exercise) and whether he/she asks for help in solving the exercise (after three help request the researcher was passing to the next exercise). Finally, the total time for the 12 exercises was marked down. 26.2. Results Block Magic evaluation based on the pre and post tests implemented during the Spanish trials gave positive results. When comparing the pre and post tests, we can see that the number of exercises that were resolved increased. This is true in average, but also when looking at the results of each particular child (9 out of 10 children improved the number of correctly resolved exercises).

Figure 12. Pre and post test comparison for children assigned to individual play. a) in a single scenario and b) in a group play scenario

As Figure 12a shows, children that played individual game scenario also improved much in terms of time needed to resolve the exercises (all 9 children made the post-test faster than the pre-test). Considering   the   children’s   autonomy,   in   average   children   requested about three times less help in the post-test than in the pre-test. Improvement is measured in in all but one case of children participating in single play sessions. In the group play scenario we can also observe an increase in the number of exercises that were resolved correctly. This is true in average, but also when looking at the results of each particular child (31 out of 36 children improved the number of correctly resolved exercises). The number of errors they did also decreased on average, although there were children (8) that did more errors after the trial, suggesting that they adopted  a  strategy  of  “trial  and  error”  (i.e.  guessing). As Figure 12b shows, children that played group game scenario also improved much in terms of time needed to resolve the exercises (all except one children made the post-test faster than the pre-test).   Considering   the   children’s   autonomy,   the   post-test indicates improvement in all but 5 cases of children that played in a group. The average number of children requested help in the post-test, however is practically the same as in

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the pre-test, indicating that the social game scenario stimulates autonomy less than the single play scenario. 26.3. Students and teachers stance The Block Magic system was accepted very positively by the students and teachers in both evaluation cycles in Spain. Teachers perceived this hands-on and manipulative learning tool as a good educational choice, comparable and at times better than alternative more standard tools. At the same time, students perceived the Block Magic sessions mainly as a fun, joyful and playful activity. Children seemed to be motivated. They stayed happily until the end of each session and wanted to continue playing afterwards.

Figure 13. A child plays with the Block Magic Kit

In general, teachers agree that Block Magic encourages children to a) use their imagination, b) learn counting, c) learn new words and phrases, d) solve exercises without the help of the teacher and e) understand the math problems and give solutions. Teachers think that children found both visual and aural presentation of the tool attractive and the use of text, graphics, sound, and pictures was perceived as balanced so the   children   didn’t   get   bored.   Furthermore,   children   liked   very   much   that   Block   Magic  is  a  technological  tool.  They  preferred  to  play  with  “the  computer”  and  not  only   with the blocks (i.e. in a traditional manner, although they like this too). Teachers believe that the Block Magic system as an educational tool to be used in autonomous manner is appropriate for children over 5 y.o. mostly. According to teachers, younger children would need a lot of work with a real adult, either teachers or parents. For them, the system is probably a bit difficult for children that do not read well and do not remember for long time what they need to do (the initial instructions of each exercise). Also for younger children it might be difficult to manage alone the hardware/software, especially in cases when they would need to press buttons for the navigation. They might be too distracted with the software manipulation. In Block Magic first trial, the 4 year old needed a lot of support and guidelines by the teacher.

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The child appeared to follow the exercises and the aural instructions, however often the teacher needed to repeat the instructions and in many cases to provide further instructions (suggestions and hints), stimulating the child to interact. In several occasions teachers suggested that some Block Magic exercises could be suitable even for children above the age of 7, especially for those students that have learning problems and/or special needs. In situations when some students cannot follow the pace of the others in the class such system can be a suitable additional support for their learning. One of the teacher even suggested that Block Magic can extended as an IQ test  to  detect  learning  problems  and  to  improve  such  students’  abilities.

Figure 14. A child plays with logic block before a session

All teachers think that Block Magic encourages children to use their imagination. This is done through specific exercises, but students were also encouraged by the colourful blocks and were using them to draw houses, castles, trains, etc. on the desk without instruction from the computer. Many of the students liked quite a lot the exercise on creativity, such as the creative drawing – a simple activity for stimulating students’ imagination   in   which   all   answers   are   always   correct,   thus   students   always   receive a positive feedback from the system. This encourages them. Children like to receive positive and encouraging feedback. In some cases children were searching to find and play exactly this exercise. The adaptability of the Block Magic difficulty levels to the concrete needs and capabilities of the children has been perceived by the teachers as a very positive feature. Children are very different from each other. In general, teachers believe that the difficulty   level   should   be   selected   carefully   to   generate   some   challenge   to   the   child’s   logical thinking which should stimulate learning advancement, but should not be too high as they might get discouraged by multiple failures. By the age of 7, whether children understand the tasks through reading the instruction depends a lot on the concrete child, as some students might still have difficulties in reading. Complex or long instructions are not easily understood. Teachers suggest giving short instructions and providing them one by one.

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Figure 15. Block Magic group scenario

Considering the   learning/practicing   of   children’s   socials   skills   in   the   group   play,   teachers believe that it depended very much on each group. In some cases it worked well and children were collaborating and were motivated. In some groups there were problems. In some cases a child that was assigned to work single wanted to join a group, etc. Also in some cases children were able to  resolve  their  “problems”  alone  and   in other cases they needed intervention. Only in one group there was a child really excluded by its peers8. It is both the opinion of the Block Magic researchers, as stated in the Block Magic Teacher Manual, and of the interviewed teachers that in the Group play scenario the role of the teacher is crucial for a successful Block Magic session. Comparing Block Magic with traditional logical blocks, teachers state that with Block Magic there are a wide variety of the exercises, some of which are more difficult to play in traditional settings. With Block Magic children can work unattended (almost) and they can spend more time with it. Also, as Block Magic includes technology it can vary, evolve and innovate constantly. In overall, the Spanish evaluation shows a very positive effect on the children, mainly on their motivation, but also there are indications of learning gain (for logical skills and autonomy). There is also generally positive attitude of the teachers towards the system use in the classroom.

8

It should be noted that in the Spanish Block Magic evaluation trial all children were assigned in a random manner to the single or group play, within the groups and were asked to the configuration they are assigned to.

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References [1] Δημητρόπουλος, Ε.Γ. Εισαγωγή στη   μεθοδολογία   της   Επιστημονικής   Έρευνας,   Ένα   συστημικό   δυναμικό  μοντέλο  ,Αθήνα,  εκδ.  Έλλην, 2004 [2] Mικρόπουλος  Τ.Α  Εκπαιδευτικό  Λογισμικό,  Θέματα  σχεδίασης  και  αξιολόγησης  λογισμικού υπερμέσων,   Αθήνα,    εκδ.  Κλειδάριθμος, 2000 [3] Παναγιωτακόπουλος  Χ.,  Πιερρακέας  Χ.,  Πιντέλας  Π.  Το  Εκπαιδευτικό  λογισμικό  και  η  αξιολόγησή  του,   Αθήνα,  εκδ.  Μεταίχμιο  ,  2003 [4] Κυνηγός,   Χ..   Το   μάθημα   της   Διερεύνησης.   Παιδαγωγική   αξιοποίηση   των   ψηφιακών   τεχνολογιών   στη   διδακτική  των  μαθηματικών.  Από  την  έρευνα  στη  σχολική τάξη.  Αθήνα:  Ελληνική  Γράμματα,  2006 [5] .Cobb, P., Confrey, J., diSessa, A., Lehrer, R. & Schauble, L, Design Experiments in Educational Research, Educational Researcher 32(1) (2003), 9-13 [6] Cohen, L., Manion, L. & Morrison, K. Research Methods in Education, , Routledge Falmer , 2207 [7] Johnson D., Johnson R, Meaningful Assessment, A Manageable and Cooperative Process, Allyn and Bacon, 2002 [8] Gibbon C.T, Morris L.L, How to design a Program Evaluation, Newbury Park, Calif. :Sage Publications. 1999 [9] Ayakli C., Software Evaluation: What we should bear in mind while designing our computer classes, Aspects, 64, 25-27, 2001 [10] U. Flick Qualitative Forschung ein Handbuch. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 2010 [11] Fratton-Meusel, S. Emotionale Kompetenz im Grundschulunterricht. Soziale Faktoren als Förderpotential-untersucht mit einer Modellstudie zum Gruppenpuzzlekonzept. München: Herbert Utz Verlag. 2008. [12] H, K urrelmann. EInführung in die Sozialisationstheorie.9. Basel: Beltz Verlag. 2006 [13] W. Maier, Grundkurs Medienpädagogik / ein Studien- und Arbeitsbuch. Weinheim, Basel: Beltz. . 1998. [14] P Mayring,. Einführung in die qualitative Sozialforschung / eine Anleitung zum qualitativen Denken. Weinheim, Basel: Beltz. 2002. [15] J., Rubin D. Chisnell, J Spool. Handbook of Usability Testing: How to Plan, Design, and Conduct Effective Tests. John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2008. [16] M.. Tessmer, Planning and Conducting Formative Evaluations: Improving the Quality of Education and Training. Abington, Oxon: Routledge. 2005

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Block Magic  methodology  for   Teaching/Learning  at  Children  with  Special   Needs Patrizia CECCARANIa and Carlo RICCI b a Lega  del  Filo  D’Oro  – Osimo, Italy b Università Pontificia Salesiana – Rome, Italy Abstract. In this chapter the experience of Block Magic Platform with children with special needs will be investigated and reported. In this part the results in these trials will be described in detail. Keywords. Children with special educational needs, RFID technologies, PECS. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, Logic Block, cognitive disabilities

Introduction The growing development of IT (Information Technology) imposes from one side a constant updating work and from another side opens up ways to use that previously could not even be imagined. Presently there are many people with various disabilities; they users with different purposes the technologies thereby improving their quality of life. The most significant achievements in the use of the technologies regard the people with Special  Educational  Needs,  in  particular  those  with  “high  functioning”  cognitive.   These people has limitations in the their activities and in the participation possibilities, but they have the full functioning of complex cognitive abilities and, thanks to this resource, are able to optimize the use of the technology. In contrast, the diffusion and use of technologies is different among people with disabilities in situations of particular severity (severe disability and mental). The paradox is that in this population expresses the maximum potential benefit of the technology. In particular we refer to a class of technologies that can be defined as "systems interface" between the person and his environment. The person with severe disability or permanent disability is almost always in the position of having to depend on the actions of others and his relationship with the surrounding environment is characterized by passivity. In other words, in the absence of a relational support, the person is often not able to control their environment and therefore it cannot make informed choices even though he has potentially the intention. Such situations, from a psychological-existential point of view reduce greatly the degrees of self-determination. In this context, the intervention of assistance and/or education risk inevitably to confirm the need for dependence that increases over time. The Block Magic project has enabled the design, implementation and customization of technologies that allow people with severe or very severe disabilities to exercise direct control over their environment, facilitating the processes of choice between different activities, different levels of participation and the management of

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working and leisure time. The international literature in this specific field now provides a sufficient amount of research and studies that prove incontrovertibly the effectiveness of these technologies, making it no longer postponable the implementation in practice of the design, implementation and customization of technology for people with severe intellectual disabilities. The live with a condition of plural sensory impairment, multiple disabilities and severe intellectual disability, involves an inevitable review of the common concept of environmental adaptation. The live with a condition of plural sensory impairment, multiple disabilities and severe intellectual disability, involves an inevitable review of the common concept of environmental adaptation. It is necessary to add to the old idea of technology as prosthesis of the person that allows to optimize the sensory residual assets, the more modern conception of "prosthetic environment." On the other hand the concept of "disability" is defined today in a unanimous as the result of the discrepancy between the demands of an environment and the performance of the individual. The growing and rapid development of technology makes it increasingly feasible the idea of modifying the environment in which an individual lives by minimizing the obstacles normally present and also optimizing the facilitators that are compatible with that context. The ultimate goal is to return the person with severe disabilities the ability to determine their own relationship between himself and the surrounding environment

27. Block Magic Experience with children with special needs In the  framework  of  the  Block  Magic  project,  the  Lega  Del  Filo  D’Oro  involved  three   people who attend the center for Rehabilitation of Osimo in Italy, more precisely: C.P., 12 years old, male, has a diagnosis of brain damage, average degree of visual impairment, speech delay, behavioral disorders, medium degree of learning disabilities. F.M., 15, male, has a diagnosis of brain damage, blindness, epilepsy, absence of verbal language, behavior disorders.; F.D., 20 years old, male, has a diagnosis of brain damage, blindness, lack of verbal language, behavior disorders, severe intellectual disability. Setting - two different rooms were used for learning: the class where kids are usually held daily educational activities and rehabilitation, and in this environment were proposed similar discriminative activities of control, with similar materials such as blocks and the "Lego" forms. Successively the pre-training with the logic blocks was held. The teaching sessions were, on average, one session per day, lasting about 30 minutes, which varied depending on the level of sustained attention and focus of the pupils. Material: in the sessions was used a structured material, the logic blocks, contained in a kit of 48 pieces of teaching organized in 4 different categories: color (red, yellow, blue), shape (square, circle, triangle, rectangle) , thickness (thick, thin), size (small, large). The researchers have programmed specific learning activities for each participant, based on the individual motor skills, sensory-perceptual and cognitive skills. The activities were:

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Discrimination of colors Discrimination of forms Discrimination of shapes and colors Discrimination of thickness Discrimination of sizes (big-small) 27.1. Experimental design The baseline implemented for each participant, had highlighted the difficulty of discriminations such as those proposed by the program Block Magic. Teaching conditions: both the experimental sessions both control sessions, took place in a controlled environment and not disturbing environmental stimuli, verbal instructions were minimal, and high motivational conditions. In this regard, the verbal reinforcement produced by the program was insufficient, and was supplemented and enriched in motivational terms with a verbal, physical and emotional bonus made by the educator. Collection and recording of data: the researchers collected the data of the experimental sessions using with Block Magic and the standards sessions of control on specific recording and monitoring forms of the learning process. These specific form are called Impact (material produced by an experimental research at the European level). On these cards, they annotated the answers of the learner, the number and type of assistance provided, and other useful information for the analysis of correlations between variables. All teaching sessions were also filmed. The reliability between observers was agreed during specific meetings of preparation, and tested randomly Performance indicators: the indicators selected in the two different learning conditions, standard and experimental, were: The number of correct and incorrect answers The type of aid and attendance The indexes of happiness The compliance (cooperation of the pupil during the tutoring sessions, and motivation to continue without avoidance behaviors or escape from the task) The prevalence of choice between standard activity vs. Magic Block Teaching methodology: the process of education is based on learning " errorless discriminative procedure": This approach is based on a discrimination training where the level of education positive, errorless, is very high, as the disturbing stimuli appear gradually, and only subsequently acquire greater similarity with those from discriminating, in the phase in which positive learning is with high probability strengthened. A concrete example, taken from the task analysis, is as follows: Objective: Learning of discriminative between circle and triangle Method: Step n.1: pairing of the block “Circle”,   the   same   shape,   size   and   color   than   the   sample block. The teacher gives the block to the pupils and another identical one is in the  box.  The  request  of  the  teacher  is  “Put  the  same”,  and  the  pupil  must  put  the  same   shape close to the sample. Using Block Magic, the form is placed next to the model, on one of the tablets available. Criteria: 10 consecutive r+

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Step n.2:  pairing  of  the  block  “Triangle”:  using  the  same  conditions Criteria: 10 consecutive r+ Step n.3. causal presentation of the  blocks  “Circle”  and  “Triangle”:  the  two  forms   are placed on two separate tablets, aligned and in contact, in the experimental condition, while in the control session are placed in two separate boxes Criteria: 10 consecutive r+ (random, 5 for each geometrical shape) Error correction: 2 corrective tests, modeling the correct answer. Duration of sessions: the session should not exceed 30 minutes 27.2. Preliminary results The results, using the indicators selected, show some significant data. The number of positive responses and errors in the session with Block Magic and in control session has not significant statistically differences, while other parameters are most relevant, and in particular: greater availability in the sessions of Block Magic: At least two of the three participants, do not show behaviors of avoidance / escape from the proposed activities. This behaviors do not appears also when are present the negative feedbacks from the speech synthesis. preference of choice: comparing approximately 80 sessions of choice among Block Magic and activities of pairing with the "Lego" forms, in about 90% of the sessions, the choice of the three participants is addressed to the activities Block Magic, than standard speed of execution: comparing the variable of time made available for each standard session and Block Magic session, (about 30 minutes per session), the number of exercises performed is greater than about 20%, compared to those made n standard class motivational conditions: in the standard sessions, the only bonus for the correct answers was the verbal feedback of the educator, but it was not enough to motivate learners in order to continue the activities, so it was necessary an integration with other type of reinforcements; in the Block Magic sessions, once familiarized with synthetic speech, it made the process more motivating, and also allowed the educator to limit and reduce the ongoing intervention. 27.3. Block Magic: possible developments of the program The positive indications of the program suggest possible developments and extensions in other rehabilitation activities, but especially to other students with "special needs education", for example, students with disabilities (the tablet used as a reader also facilitates the understanding of people with motor diseases), students who have autism spectrum disorders (multisensory stimuli offered by the visual and auditory feedbacks of the program create a great attraction, in comparison with standard methodologies). With regard to the population of people with severe intellectual disabilities and sensory-perceptual deficits, the extension of the program can cover the following areas of education and rehabilitation: For blind people, you can define interesting developments in the programs of environmental enrichment, "tagging" significant objects of daily use, or new

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objects to be labeled verbally, in order to memorize its name and function, or facilitating the recognition of everyday environments For people with visual impairments and / or non-verbal, RFID technology can support the Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) through, for example., The identification of PECS, pictographic images, photos and other visual materials, in order to extend vocabulary and facilitate sentence construction and possible phraseology expansions For other educational tasks at school, such as. discrimination of combinations of shapes, colors, thicknesses with other material different from the logical blocks; eg. the concrete operations in order to develop the prerequisites of logical-mathematical and numerical skill, the association number / amount, and vice versa, exercise-game that represent the line with the numbers in the development of the skills of autonomy and self-determination, the objects to match, to be combined together to complete a lot of pictures well known and familiar to the student, eg. a house, a balloon, a cart or a bicycle, can be placed on pages of stiff cardboard into a ring binder. This can facilitate the continuity to the task and self-determination in performing the game on their own, taking verbal reinforcements and feedbacks in case of incorrect answers.

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Conclusions and  future  directions a

Orazio MIGLINOa, and Raffaele DI FUCCIO a Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Istituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della Cognizione – Rome, Italy Abstract. In this chapter we will discuss the future directions. Although the prototype of Block Magic needs some improvements, like every device obtained with the results of the research, the results obtained are encouraging. In the coming future we will act in three directions: technological improvements based on recent feedbacks collected, the project dissemination and commercialization of the prototype due to agreements with specialized companies. Keywords. Commercialization, RFID technologies, pre-elementary schools, Block Magic, logical blocks

Introduction In these two years of working with ICT in schools with BlockMagic project, we got a lot of results and we are proud to share them actively. During the BlockMagic project funded by the EU Commission, the Consortium developed methods, exercises and technologies and tested it with selected children and teachers in Greece, Germany, Italy and Spain in kindergartens and primary schools. The path, however, was not so simple, during the project many parameters have changed and also some of our beliefs. As an example we can mention the change of the main instrument of Magic Block Kit: at the beginning of the path, at the proposal stage, the Consortium chose it as the basis of Block Magic, a wand. It is our intention the wand was the best tool to bring in schools using the manipulation of technologically advanced devices. The idea in the lab was to allow children to explore space and "tag" the space. This conviction has grown in the lab later it collided with the practice and with the experimental evidence in the trials. Although the magic wand of Magic Block, which is a wireless device that can recognize the blocks, it appears very attractive and compact, it was not the best device to use for children. In fact, during the tests the device was turned off multiple times due to the difficulty of operation. In fact, the child had to push a button when he wanted to recognize a block and turn on the magic wand, but if the button was pressed too long it was turned off. In addition, the wand caused more confusion in the classroom because of the mobility of the device. Since Block Magic was developed to be a device which allows independent operation, this feature limited the use of the kit. For these reasons, we have redesigned the hardware to be used in this context and thanks to the precious input of the partners and the answers of the teachers we have found the current solution: the magic tablet. The child can now have the device directly on your desk and place the desired blocks above it, with a simple gesture manipulative. However, this journey took new challenges as in any research. In this context, the child was forced to play with the tablet and to use the PC mouse to move forward in any learning activities. The next idea was to make the experience for the child totally manipulative and allow the child to interact only with the blocks and the tablet. In order

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to achieve this goal we used the operational blocks, ie special block that causes some specific actions  such  as  “End  the  exercise”,  “Repeat  the  instruction”,  etc.   This process was a path of research absolutely essential to achieve the objectives described in this book. The acceptability and satisfaction of children and teachers who have used the device was very high, as shown by the data. These encouraging results lead us to work in this direction to further improve the device. Like any prototype device may not be perfect yet. During these two years, many problems have been solved and the Consortium has fixed some bugs of the system, but the work to get a totally robust tool is not concluded. Many inputs are interesting and will be integrated in the following versions at the end of the project. For example, teachers who have worked with children with special need, they propose to replace the actual voices with voices of parents of children. In addition, probably the tool will be improved making the interface a more attractive for children who use the Block Magic kit But the most important result is that the data obtained by our researchers and the interviews collected with the teachers involved shows that the BlockMagic prototype is a tool that could be easily introduced in the routine of real classrooms. In the near future, the Partnership intends to continue to disseminate the project results and to start new projects on the basis of the results obtained in all the countries involved. The next goal is to bring information about Block Magic beyond the borders of the nations that participated in the project and integrate new experiences by other researchers outside the project. Finally, the other objective is to make agreements with specialized companies for marketing to make the device usable to everyone and allow a real diffusion in schools, rehabilitation centers for children with special needs and for independent learning of children at home. The Block Magic project (517936-LLP-1-IT-COMENIUS-CMP) has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

1. Acknowledgments The Block Magic project (517936-LLP-1-IT-COMENIUS-CMP) has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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About Nea-Science Nea-Science is an online magazine that enhances scientific publications written entirely by psychologists, psychotherapists, psychiatrists and specialists in human and cognitive sciences. It is aimed at a broad readership, professionals interested in specialized and technical topics, the web surfer interested in psychological issues and their applications, as well as to parents who are searching for information, and insights pertaining to the world of cognition and of the relationship. Nea-Science borns as a project of the Rehabilitation Centre Neapolisanit Ltd.(in Ottaviano, Naples, Italy), which has been operating in the clinical and rehabilitation. The main object of interest issues of the magazine are: - Autism - ABA - Psychotherapy - Learning Technologies - Process models, relational and cognitive - Rehabilitation - Law and Disability - Deficits and cognitive disorders and relational - Education and learning The website is www.neapolisanit.eu The magazine has an ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) and it is recognized and indexed in major scientific search engines: ACNP (Italian Union Catalogue of Periodicals), Ulrich's Web, Scopus, Web of Science, DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals, Google Scholar). The editorial staff is largely composed of psychologists, but all can cooperate with us. In fact, the section devoted to scientific research will propose periodically Call For Papers (CFP) on specific topics and allow you to send your intellectual product, which will be viewed by a Scientific Committee and in the event of a favorable outcome published on the editorial of the magazine.

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