Active Learning Environments with Robotic Tangibles: Children's Physical and Virtual Spatial Programming Experiences

Winslow S. Burleson, Danielle B. Harlow, Katherine J. Nilsen, Ken Perlin, Natalie Freed, Camilla Nørgaard Jensen, Byron Lahey, Patrick Lu, Kasia Muldner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


As computational thinking becomes increasingly important for children to learn, we must develop interfaces that leverage the ways that young children learn to provide opportunities for them to develop these skills. Active Learning Environments with Robotic Tangibles (ALERT) and Robopad, an analogous on-screen virtual spatial programming environment for educational Human Robot Interaction (HRI), have been developed. Evaluations of these in the context of free play and open-ended learning activities show that both systems afford opportunities for young children to engage in spatial programming, creating improvisational and sequential programs that mediate interactions between the environment, robots, and humans in responsive and creative ways. These systems demonstrate innovative opportunities for advancing mixed reality spatial programming activities as a form of HRI that fosters engaging seamless cyberlearning experiences, across formal and informal environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)96-106
Number of pages11
JournalIEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018



  • Computers and education
  • human-computer interaction
  • robotics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Engineering(all)
  • Computer Science Applications

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