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Product Review: The Cubetto Robot!

What is the Cubetto Robot?

Cubetto is a wooden, screen-less robot that has been designed for 3-6-year old’s. Based on the Montessori style of learning, it can teach children basic computer programming through hands-on play.  The Cubetto package comes with a robot, a control board, coding tiles, storybook, and mat.  Children place the coding tiles into the control board to program the robot. Cubetto can be programmed to move forward 15cm with a green tile, turn right with a red tile and turn left with a yellow tile.  There is also an additional blue tile which can be used for more complex coding, like developing a sub-routine that allows the same set of directions to be used more than once.

What does Primo Toys say about Cubetto?

Primo Toys believe that the Cubetto robot is an excellent way to teach coding and computational thinking in the early years. The tangible coding tiles enable the children to engage in ‘hands on’ coding through play.  They can practice skills such as developing algorithms, debugging, recursions and gain an understanding of precise order and queues.  Primo Toys also state that Cubetto’s capabilities go beyond coding to foster learning in communication, physical exercise, social-emotional learning, mathematics, and logical reasoning.

What do I say about Cubetto?

Wow! I absolutely loved this little robot! I was lucky enough to be able to road-test Cubetto on a Kindergarten (preparatory) class (of 4-5-year old’s) and a playgroup (of 3-4-year old’s).  As a major advocate of play-based learning, I was pleased to see that all the children were captivated by Cubetto and their natural curiosity lead them to happily experiment without caution.  They had no worries about putting in the ‘wrong’ code or making a mistake. I found Cubetto to be an inclusive and gender-neutral learning tool that allowed children of all skills and abilities to interact with it.

Some positives I found in my observations and research:

  1. The colour coded tiles made the programming of Cubetto extremely easy. All the children that I observed, picked it up very quickly.  They could also follow Cubetto’s navigation path as the LEDs lit up on the control board in correspondence to which coding tile was being read at the time.
  2. If a mistake was made in the coding, the children could easily see where they went wrong and could simply replace the wrong coding tile with the correct one. There was no need to start over from scratch, which is often the case with other coding robots.
  3. Cubetto really laid down a foundation for the children to engage in creative thinking, team work and collaboration. I watched as they discussed codes, directions, possible pathways, problems, and brainstormed solutions together.
  4. The storybook and map allowed for many cross-curriculum activities. The sky is the limit on how Cubetto can be used in the classroom and the Primo Toys website offers many lesson plans, suggestions, and creative ideas.
  5. The teachers I spoke with loved Cubetto because they didn’t need to be a tech expert to use it. Many teachers have felt overwhelmed by technology, especially in the early years, but Cubetto is a good base computer programming tool that teachers can use immediately without having any prior coding skills.

Some issues I found with Cubetto:

  1. Some of the children in both age groups had trouble placing the tiles into the coding board. The back of the tile is a semi-circle shape and must be placed correctly in order to work.  This problem, however, could also be a positive aspect of using Cubetto, as it can help those children improve their fine motor skills.
  2. To use the Cubetto robot efficiently, the children have to know the difference between their right and left sides. Most children (even those that knew right and left) had difficulty working out which way Cubetto should turn to get to a particular square on the story map and which coding tile to use.  To overcome this, I used blue-tak to place the corresponding tile on top of Cubetto to show which direction he would turn. (As shown in pic).  Once the children have sufficient spatial awareness, the tiles could easily be taken off.
  3. The Cubetto Robot retails in Australia from $310 – $390, which is a significant amount of money in an already overstretched classroom budget.

How does Cubetto fit into the Curriculum?

Cubetto can be incorporated into the Early Years Learning Framework, (Learning Outcome 4 and 5) where children are supported to develop skills such as problem-solving, inquiry, experimentation, hypothesising, researching, investigating, and are introduced to symbols, patterns, and technology.

Within the Australian Curriculum (F-2), Cubetto can be a useful teaching tool in the key learning areas such as Mathematics, Science, and Technologies, with an emphasis on; order, sequence, pattern, position, questioning, and predicting.  Cubetto also has many cross-curriculum capabilities to expand into Literacy, History, Geography, Humanities, and Social Science.

Conclusion

What I love most about the Cubetto robot is that it encourages play-based learning where children can learn through curiosity, exploration, and imagination.  It is something that the children can see touch, hold, and interact with. Cubetto is simple and easy to use, and in my opinion, an excellent way to introduce coding and computer programming in the early years. Teachers don’t need to be tech experts to implement Cubetto into the classroom and it is adaptable enough to suit the ever-changing curriculum.  While the cost is on the expensive side, the benefits far outweigh the price, especially with the current increased emphasis on coding in the curriculum.  I would highly recommend the Cubetto robot to any early year’s educators who would like to kickstart their students’ coding and computer programming journey!

About the Author

Written by Renee Irving-Lee

Renee has a diverse background in Education in a variety of settings; including Early Childhood, Special Education and Tertiary Studies.

References

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2017). Australian Curriculum. Retrieved from Learning F-2: https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/learning-f-2/

Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations for the Council of Australian Governments. (2009). Belonging, Being and Becoming. Retrieved from The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia: https://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/belonging_being_and_becoming_the_early_years_learning_framework_for_australia.pdf

Primo Toys. (2017). Teaching Guide : Introducing Cubetto in the Classroom. Retrieved from Primo Toys: https://www.primotoys.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/teacherguide_preview_watermark-1.pdf