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Abstract

The technological advances of the past years have impressively demonstrated that the digital age is no longer just a science fiction vision of the future - we are in the midst of it. The digital transformation is affecting many areas of our lives, including the educational system. For instance, recent years have shown an increased adoption of educational robotics activities in classrooms. Although educators and researchers have acknowledged the potential of educational robotics, further efforts are needed to effectively integrate them into formal education. As for any kind of educational tool, one key factor for the successful integration of educational robots in classrooms is the proper alignment of such tools with the classroom activities and vice versa. In practice, however, this may pose challenges. On the one hand, it still appears that only few educators have already developed the required know-how allowing them to leverage educational robotics for classroom activities. On the other hand, the issue of poor alignment may already arise in the design stages of educational robotics tools, due to the limited experience of developers with the pedagogy and learning theories related to such tools. This thesis, therefore, seeks to study how instructional alignment can be attained in the context of educational robotics. To this end, an alignment framework will be devised aimed at supporting developers in the design of educational robotics tools, as well as educators in the design and implementation of classroom activities involving educational robotics. In this context, we will introduce the notion of Educational Robotics Learning Systems (ERLS), a model that conceptualizes alignment for educational robotics activities. In different studies, we will illustrate how the devised alignment framework can be used to guide the development of educational robotics tools and activities. The PaPL and CreroBot projects will consider the alignment issue from the developers' perspective. The former is concerned with the development of a tangible programming interface based on accessible materials such as paper and cardboard. The latter will then expand these ideas to the development of a do-it-yourself educational robot. In two other projects, we will then illustrate how the devised framework can be used to guide the development of educational robotics activities. We will first discuss the Thymio lawnmower mission, an activity devised to foster the development of students' computational thinking competencies. Finally, we will present the Thymio Escape Game, an immersive learning activity that has been inspired by escape room experiences. The findings from these studies are intended to make a contribution to the field of educational robotics, specifically by addressing the global research question of this thesis: How can instructional alignment be attained for educational robotics activities?

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