Factors That Hinder in-Service Teachers from Incorporating
Educational Robotics into Their Daily or Future Teaching Practice
Stamatios Papadakis
, Julie Vaiopoulou
, Eirini Sifaki
, Dimitrios Stamovlasis
Michail Kalogiannakis
and Kostas Vassilakis
Department of Preschool Education, Faculty of Education, University of Crete, Greece
University of Nicosia, Cyprus & Democritus University of Thrace, Greece
Hellenic Open University, Greece
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Department of Philosophy and Education, Greece
Hellenic Mediterranean University, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Greece
Keywords: Educational Robotics, in-Service Teachers, STEM, Preschool Education.
Abstract: As educational technology continually improves, there is an ongoing interest in using educational robotics
(ER) in preschool classrooms. The acquisition of STEM experience in young children's education has found
that it helps children get the appropriate tools crucial to any successful study. As the research recognizes that
children must participate in STEM education from an early age, ER provides a tangible interface that could
enhance the learning process by creating an enjoyable and engaging context. There is also a close relationship
between educators’ knowledge, views, and attitudes towards technology and how to adopt technology in early
childhood classrooms. Teachers' perceptions, attitudes, and technological competencies are considered the
primary determinants of technology adoption in curriculum and pedagogy. It is necessary to understand their
views, problems of ER’s utility, and acceptance in preschool education. This study aimed to examine
preschool educators' views regarding the factors that hinder them from incorporating the ER into their daily
teaching practice.
Supporters of introducing creative thinking and
problem-solving in education argue for systematic
reform to primary and secondary schools that
encompass modern technology educational tools
demanded of students in the twenty-first century
(Karakoyun and Lindberg, 2020). In this context, the
scientific community regards technology in early
childhood education settings as a tool to prepare
students and future citizens for their role in society
(Kalogiannakis and Papadakis, 2017; Mertala, 2019).
Additionally, research supports that the preschool
classroom environment is rich in preschoolers'
connections and opportunities to engage actively in
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
(STEM) activities (MacDonald, Huser, Sikder, and
Danaia, 2020). Nowadays, there are numerous
educational tools available for preschool-age children
to engage them in STEM activities such as visual
block-based environments (e.g., ScratchJr), online
environments (e.g., Code.org), robotic devices (e.g.,
Bee-bot), and unplugged activities (Dorouka,
Papadakis and Kalogiannakis, 2020; Rose, 2019).
Educational robotics (ER) kits or robots in
Preschool Education offer a playful and enjoyable
experience to young children to engage in STEM
activities by constructing robots with or without
software applications using motors, sensors, and
various everyday materials. They can also acquire
Papadakis, S., Vaiopoulou, J., Sifaki, E., Stamovlasis, D., Kalogiannakis, M. and Vassilakis, K.
Factors That Hinder in-Service Teachers from Incorporating Educational Robotics into Their Daily or Future Teaching Practice.
DOI: 10.5220/0010413900550063
In Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Computer Supported Education (CSEDU 2021) - Volume 2, pages 55-63
ISBN: 978-989-758-502-9
2021 by SCITEPRESS Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reser ved
Computational Thinking (CT) skills by exploring
algorithms, modularity, sequences, loops, and
variables (Sullivan, Bers, and Mihm, 2017). As
preschoolers are already familiar with digital devices
before entry into preschool (Kalogiannakis and
Papadakis, 2017), educators can easily engage
children in creative activities and physical play with
robotic kits. Thus, they can easily take advantage of
the latest technology based on children’s prior
experiences, logical arguments, or other empirical
evidence (MacDonald et al., 2020).
It is now widely recognized that a strong
relationship exists between early childhood educators’
attitudes towards technology and their actions in early
childhood settings (Kalogiannakis, Ampartzaki,
Papadakis, and Skaraki, 2018;
Vidal-Hall, Flewitt, and
Wyse, 2020). Educators’ self-efficacy beliefs and
knowledge in digital technologies, and lately, in STEM
activities and CT concepts, can significantly impact
their digital education experiences. Many educators
experience uncertainty or even fear concerning digital
and STEM content, which affects their confidence in
STEM and CT education practices (MacDonald et al.,
2020). On the other hand, Bers notes that robotics can
help teachers expand interest in STEM concepts and
make CT and STEM activities more appealing for
students and teachers. Teachers' earlier experience in
robotics education can help educators revisit their
instructional designs and integrate interactive teaching
approaches, such as student-centered teaching (Bers,
This paper's research study is focused on in-service
teachers’ perceptions regarding the factors that inhibit
them from incorporating ER in their daily teaching
practice (Hamed, Ezquerra, Porlán, and Rivero, 2020).
The rise of digital technologies brings new
opportunities, demands, and challenges for students
and teachers in the 21
-century (European
Commission, 2020). Research supports the beginning
of STEM experiences since preschool education as
these experiences function as a critical component of
their cognitive development and predictive of later
reading achievement (Heikkilä, 2020). Children's
developmentally appropriate STEM education
approaches in early years education contribute to a
positive STEM field attitude. Besides, they make
students believe that they can succeed in future
engagement in STEM (Çiftçi, Topçu, and Foulk,
2020). Furthermore, the research has proven that early
exposure to STEM experiences reduces gender-based
stereotypes of females' STEM career roles. This
assumption leads to an increased interest in engineer-
ing and relative disciplines later in their academic and
professional life (Bers and Sullivan, 2019).
For these reasons, in recent years, concepts such
as STEM, robotics, CT, and coding, have been
promoted by educational institutions and other
organizations as skills that are as fundamental for all
students with equal importance as numeracy and
literacy (Papadakis, Zaranis and Kalogiannakis,
2019). In preschool classrooms, the educational goal
is not to introduce coding literacy in separate subject
classes. Indeed, the aim is to teach students how to
use digital technologies as tools to produce well-
educated people. At the preschool education, the aim
is to ensure a broader focus so that students use the
digital technologies and the CT and coding activities
as learning opportunities for cognitive growth,
creative problem solving, and entrepreneurship
(Heikkilä and Mannila, 2018).
Especially, ER technologies offer hands-on
methods to young students about everything they
encounter on a typical day, such as sensors, batteries,
detectors, and lights. The term Educational Robotics
(ER) is used to define a broad area of knowledge-
based approaches requiring students to utilize their
reasoning skills either to program a robot or design
and create its part(s) and program it (Di Lieto et al.,
2017). For these reasons, ER is considered an
appropriate tool for early childhood development
because it helps children develop fine motor skills
and coordination, aids in cognitive development and
social and communication skills (Sullivan et al.,
2017). It also helps children understand cause and
effect and take their early imagination to a new level
while developing problem-solving, logical thinking,
and cognitive skills to acquire programming skills
(Toh, Causo, Tzuo, and Chen, 2016).
This shift has profound implications for teachers’
skills and practices as teachers are expected to find
creative approaches to teach children to read, write,
and develop mathematical skills and code and
programming (Atmatzidou and Demetriadis, 2016;
Barianos et al., 2019). Thus, we need to understand the
beliefs and reasoning that guide teachers’ ER
introduction and classroom practices. In this aspect,
before designing and introducing an ER, STEM, CT
integrated curriculum that effectively accommodates
preschoolers' needs is imperative to understand the
complex challenges teachers face in their daily
teaching practice. These challenges include inadequate
training, strict curricula, flawed methodologies, limited
educational content, and lack of infrastructure
(Reinoso, Delgado-Iglesias, and Fernández, 2019).
CSEDU 2021 - 13th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
For many teachers, this is a considerable
challenge, and several studies highlight the gap
between teachers’ ability in technology use and the
actual technology use. Each tool requires an
understanding of its pedagogical potential and
classroom deployment options, as well as the
necessary facilities (Levy and Kucirkova, 2017).
Earlier research has revealed several obstacles
that could hinder a teacher from integrating
educational technology in the classroom
(Kalogiannakis and Papadakis, 2017). The
importance of teachers’ beliefs and attitudes for the
everyday use of educational technology in teaching
practice has been broadly addressed in the literature
(Vlasopoulou, Kalogiannakis, and Sifaki, 2021). For
instance, Vidal-Hall et al. (2020) highlight that
integrating digital technologies forms a challenge for
early childhood educators. In conjunction with
teachers' beliefs, these limitations can explain how in-
service teachers introduce ER in their classrooms and
how in-service teachers instruct students in CT and
ER activities (Cormas, 2020). Vidal-Hall et al. (2020)
comment on a British study result showing that 25
percent of the United Kingdom practitioners feel that
new forms of technology do not belong in the
preschool classroom.
A teacher’s positive or negative attitude towards
introducing educational technologies in the
classroom can either ease or hinder digital media use
in the daily teaching practice (Papadakis and
Orfanakis, 2016). Many educators experience
uncertainty or even fear concerning STEM content,
which affects their confidence in STEM education.
Besides, meaningful STEM professional
development contributes to positive effects on teacher
attitudes, increasing their confidence and enrollment
in relative fields (MacDonald et al., 2020). Tang,
Tung, and Cheng (2020) state that teachers outside of
technology-oriented fields may not have the technical
competencies to use ER. Furthermore, a lack of
technological infrastructure and training support
could prevent teachers from using new technology,
and teachers’ biased attitudes towards new
technology, namely their perceived utility and ease of
use, could be another hurdle.
For a shift in teachers’ beliefs toward STEM,
innovative approaches for effective training should be
applied to guarantee the practical implementation of
STEM concepts and educational technologies into the
classroom (Çiftçi et al., 2020). For this purpose, the
present study investigated the beliefs, skills, and
attitudes of a group of participants consisting of in-
service early childhood teachers’ before attending a
seminar relative to STEM integrated practices.
The research question guiding the study was:
(1) What are the educator’s beliefs on the factors that
inhibit ER use in early childhood education?
3.1 Methodology
In this study, the quantitative approach to data
collection and analysis was followed utilizing a
survey instrument designed for the present inquiry,
which had an exploratory character (Petousi and
Sifaki, 2021). The main aim was to gain insights
about in-service preschool teachers’ beliefs on the use
of Educational Robotics in preschool education and
specify which factors hinder their incorporation into
the formal curriculum.
3.2 Sampling
The sample consisted of in-service preschool teachers
(N=102) who attended a seminar on educational
technology, which complete the survey questionnaire
before the beginning of the session. The in-service
teachers were females with 10 to 25 years of teaching
experience in kindergartens in the region of Crete. It
is worth emphasizing that the in-service teachers had
not received a systematic education and training in
ER, CT, and STEM concepts and activities
previously, and for the majority, that seminar was
their first experience in ER, CT, and STEM.
3.3 Instrument
The survey questionnaire used for data collection
included, besides demographic items, questions sought
to determine the teachers’ thoughts on various aspects
hindering ER's implementation in daily teaching prac-
tice and items measuring their readiness to conduct ER.
The latter were eleven closed-ended items on a five-
point Likert scale of Strongly Agree (5), Agree (4),
Undecided (3), Disagree (2), and Strongly disagree (1).
3.4 Validity and Reliability Issues
To reserve validity and reliability issues, special
attention was paid to stating the appropriate and
straightforward questions. The items were developed
and checked by experienced educational technology
lecturers and scientists, who avoided any complicated
language unfamiliar to participants. Moreover, the
instrument’s factorial validity was verified by
Factors That Hinder in-Service Teachers from Incorporating Educational Robotics into Their Daily or Future Teaching Practice
Principal Components Analysis, and the Cronbach’s
alpha for internal consistency was measured.
However, in this report, we present only the
dimension of the negative (hindering) factor, and we
treat each item as a separate variable.
3.5 Limitations of the Research
A limitation of this study is the generalizability of the
findings to other contexts, given the opportunity
sampling and the relatively small sample size.
Besides, the participants were from the same
geographical area. Thus, the sample was not
representative of the in-service population. However,
given the exploratory characters, the finding is
considered indicative and informative on the primary
research questions.
3.6 Ethical Considerations
In this research context, national and international
research ethics guidelines were followed (Petousi and
Sifaki, 2021), such as the guidelines suggested by the
University of Crete code of Ethics & Research Ethics
Committee. We obtained informed and voluntary
consent from the teachers who participated in this
study. We also informed potential participants of the
importance of their participation and what would
happen to the information provided by them.
This article focuses on our analysis of in-service
teachers' responses to the factors that hinder them
from incorporating ER into their daily or future
teaching practice. The Statistical Package for Social
Sciences (SPSS™ Version 23.0; Chicago, III, USA)
software was used for data analysis. Next, we present
the results of specific analyses regarding the selected
research question.
Teachers were asked to rank order the reasons that
may hinder the use of educational Robotic. Figure 1
shows the frequencies of various choices taken from
a cross-tabulation. Among the five choices, the ‘lack
of infrastructure’ and the ‘lack of knowledge’ were
the first two most significant factors.
Teachers were asked to express their worries,
negative feelings, or positions towards educational
Robotics. Illustrations in Figure 2 depict the
frequency distribution of teacher responses to four
items of those positions. The histograms show a
relatively adequate variance in all cases, which
permits further inductive testing.
Figure 1: Frequencies of five choices are taken from a
cross-tabulation. Lack of infrastructure and lack of
knowledge were the first two most significant factors.
Figure 2: Frequency distribution of teacher responses to
four items regarding feeling and positions about the use of
educational Robotics.
CSEDU 2021 - 13th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
Figure 2: Frequency distribution of teacher responses to
four items regarding feeling and positions about the use of
educational Robotics (cont.).
Table 1: Correlations between teachers' worries, negative
feelings, or positions with their level of robotics knowledge
and their knowledge of educational robotics.
Level of
Level of robotics knowledge 1 0,494**
Knowledge of educational
0,494** 1
N2. The use of educational
robotics in daily teaching
practice annoys me.
-0,027 -0,124
N5. Using robotics in my daily
teaching practice scares me
-0,049 -0,265**
N7. Robots do not favor the
learning of students because they
are not easy to handle
-0,105 -0,325**
N11. Robots do not seem useful
tools because they present
technical problems
0,022 -0,272**
These items expressing worries, negative feelings,
or positions were correlated with several independent
variables such as the level of robotics knowledge and
the knowledge of educational robotics. Table 1 shows
the corresponding Pearson correlations. It is observed
that the knowledge of educational robotics is
negatively correlated with those items representing
worries and negative feelings.
Besides, in-service teachers’ responses to their
feelings were associated with age and their teaching
experience. The illustrations in Figures 3 show that
the elder and more experienced teachers express more
intense worries and have rather negative feelings
about educational robotic use in the formal
Figure 3: (a, b, c, d, e). Differences in the in-service
teachers' responses (worries, feelings, and positions) across
age and years of teaching experience.
Factors That Hinder in-Service Teachers from Incorporating Educational Robotics into Their Daily or Future Teaching Practice
Figure 3: (a, b, c, d, e). Differences in the in-service
teachers' responses (worries, feelings, and positions) across
age and years of teaching experience (cont.).
From Figure 3 (a, b, c, d, e), we can see that the elder
and more experienced teacher express more intense
worries and have a rather negative feeling and
positions about the use of educational robotic in the
formal curriculum.
Research demonstrates that early exposure in STEM
and CT fields contributes to developing significant
cognitive outcomes and critical skills, such as
executive functioning and fluid reasoning, leading to
later school success (Bustamante et al., 2020).
Robots, robotics kits are recognized as an effective
means of introducing CT, STEM, and 21st-century
skills to preschoolers. These tools are often combined
with mobile applications (apps) that utilize a smart
mobile device (Kalogiannakis, Nirgianaki, and
Papadakis, 2019). Since the combination of robotic
kits and related apps can make the instruction more
exciting, teachers must be trained and supported to
use these digital media effectively (Chan, 2019).
Nevertheless, the effective integration and use of
educational technologies into preschool education
remain a significant issue (Vidal-Hall et al., 2020). As
preschool teachers play a critical role in digital
technology integration in early childhood education
(Papadakis, Kalogiannakis, and Zaranis, 2018),
teachers need to acknowledge digital media necessity
(Vidal-Hall et al., 2020). In the published literature, it
has been found that teachers' attitudes to digital
technologies affect the use of technology in
educational practices. Thus, to effectively change
their teaching behavior, teachers must realize that
there is a clear benefit of using educational
technology to promote STEM learning. Teachers
need to understand emerging technology to
incorporate these modalities into their classrooms
(Chan, 2019). This follows Vidal-Hall et al.'s (2020)
findings, which showed that any attempt to integrate
digital technologies effectively is needed to consider
the teacher's pedagogical beliefs and practice.
In this study, similar to other studies, teachers were
open-minded towards integrating ER into the
curriculum (Çiftçi et al., 2020). Nevertheless, it was
also found that they must receive appropriate and
adequate pedagogical and technical support to build
confidence and self-esteem to integrate these
technologies into their daily practice (European
Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2019). Providing
teachers with knowledge and experience in using
innovative technology will help them develop a
positive attitude towards the new technology and
become more self-confident. A professional training
experience may affect their attitudes towards
technology use (Chan, 2019). Teachers must acquire
skills and practice to intentionally and systematically
use this digital pedagogy (Papadakis, Vaiopoulou,
Kalogiannakis, and Stamovlasis, 2020). Their efforts
should be focused on children's engagement in rich,
playful, and challenging activities, emphasizing the
critical ideas of early childhood development
(Dunphy, 2020). This study found that young teachers
are considered digital natives who can easily support
the effective integration of innovative technologies
into the preschool environment. On the contrary,
older teachers can be characterized as anxious about
technology use. This study's findings highlight this
generational dichotomy: it seems, therefore, that the
CSEDU 2021 - 13th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
opinions of the younger teachers differ from those of,
the older teachers; Similar to other studies, the present
study revealed that younger teachers believe that the
integration of technologies such as robots into the
early childhood classroom improves student learning
outcomes (Chan, 2019).
Reflecting on our findings allows us to point to
some implications for teacher education. Firstly, we
suggest that teacher education programs should create
learning opportunities adapted to the teachers'
learning needs to understand and support educational
technologies in their daily teaching practice.
Moreover, we suggest that teacher training should be
a continuous process that commences at the initial
teacher education stage and continues with teaching
practice and ongoing learning (Hamed et al., 2020).
Thus, we suggest that teacher education programs
should create learning opportunities adapted to the
new learning environments that the teachers
experienced to understand and support teachers'
knowledge progression undergoing initial training.
Moreover, we suggest that teacher training should be
a continuous process that begins at the initial teacher
education stage and continues with teaching practice
and ongoing learning (Hamed et al., 2020). As Tang
et al. (2020) advise, the university administrators'
strategic visions of teaching and learning
enhancement would incentivize teachers to adopt ER
in curriculum and pedagogy. Thus, ER's holistic
integration may need to be considered at the
university-level rather than at the subject-level, as
expediting its use in one subject could hamper
students' learning in another subject.
Digital technology has revolutionized the world of
education, and children today grow up and live in a
world where technologies are ubiquitous. Innovative
digital technologies affect how education is delivered
and perceived, and they play their role in preparing
students for a high tech-enabled world (European
Commission, 2020).
Based on the present study results and our
educational experience, several recommendations
can be made to improve preschool classrooms' ER
integration further. Teachers must receive timely and
proper education from universities and educational
organizations to acquire CT and STEM literacy
(Reinoso et al., 2019). This can be done by using
problem-solving and constructivism across the
curriculum and creating stronger links between
theory and practice (Levy and Kucirkova, 2017).
Concerning the lack of experience and knowledge
among teachers, educational institutions must
organize conferences, seminars, and workshops to
familiarize themselves with CT, ER, and STEM
concepts. These actions can help teachers look
beyond the ‘traditional’ classroom and realize the
potential learning opportunities provided by
educational technology (Seow et al., 2017). Teacher
training must ensure that teachers understand the
objectives, goals, and outcomes of using educational
technology. These include the introduction of various
technologies into the preschool classroom to fit with
the curriculum properly. Teachers must realize how
all these components can be woven into high-quality
early learnings (McManis and Parks, 2011).
Given the limitations of research conducted in one
geographical area, the findings' generalizability to
other settings is uncertain. Thus, further research in
more geographical areas is needed to help the
researchers understand whether similar trends are
evident elsewhere. Such research would aim to
develop a professional learning model for integrating
digital technology in the preschool classroom.
The authors reported no potential conflict of interest.
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