Robots lend themselves to do-it-yourself activities. For example, a colleague builds robots using a 3D printer and uses his smart phone as an interactive device to communicate with the printed robot.
There are several competitions for a range of age groups that can channel competitive instincts in a positive way. For example, asking children to build a robot from a Lego set and then running a race to see which robot goes fastest works well. In my experience, the two most engaging ways of introducing IT in the curriculum are robotics and computer game design.
Programming can be too abstract. They also learn the need for precise instructions. Robotics helps address the growing demand for teaching science, technology, engineering and maths in schools. As well as exemplifying technology directly by programming the robot, students also learn about science, engineering and maths and get an understanding of how these subjects link together. The drone industry has taken off. According to The Economist , more than 15, drones are being sold in the US each month. By programming robots, students can discover if they have aptitude and interest in a job market of the future.
More students who read aloud with a robot companion said that the activity motivated them to read and increased their reading comprehension than students who read aloud alone. From a pretest to a posttest taken about one week later, the robot-trained children increased their own scores an average of 52 percent ; solo students self-improved by an average of 39 percent, the researchers reported last March in Chicago at the International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction, or HRI In one experiment, 33 children ages 5 to 9 solved geometric puzzles called tangrams with a Tega.
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Robotics can teach you many fields
Before and after working with the robot, each child completed an assessment that rated growth mind-set from 0 to Roboticists have created machines that can make some simple decisions, like choosing when to encourage a student to take a break. Designing robots that track student performance to adjust pacing and choose what to teach next is trickier. Some robots have been programmed to adjust activity difficulty based on student proficiency, but researchers have had trouble showing that these bots help students learn more than generic robots do.
What if robots could go beyond responding to performance by keeping tabs on how a student is feeling? For instance, happiness has positive valence and anger has negative. In three to seven sessions over two months, two groups of nine preschoolers worked with either this adaptable Tega or a nonadaptive Tega. In the impersonal group, valence dropped an average of 18 points, researchers reported in Phoenix in at an Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence conference. But some educators are concerned about the amount of data machines would have to collect and store to do that job right.
But a robot designed to exhaustively analyze every facial expression or game move a child makes may be able to gather such detailed information on kids that it would constitute an invasion of privacy. This concern was raised in a series of focus groups with certified and student teachers discussing educational robots.
Robotics ethicist Amanda Sharkey also notes that kids might feel compelled to share private information with a robot peer that acts like a friend.
One remedy might include requiring robots to continually divulge what information is being collected and who the robots share it with, says Sharkey, of the University of Sheffield in England. Scassellati recalls one first-grade boy who worked on English language skills with a robot. Every three or four minutes, just stopped and started hugging the robot. Social robotics researcher Ginevra Castellano of Uppsala University in Sweden and colleagues programmed iCat, a yellow robot with a feline face, to express empathy to test if that would help keep kids engaged with the robot for the long term.
Over five weeks, iCat played weekly chess exercises with 16 children in Portugal, ages 8 and 9. After the first and final interactions, kids filled out questionnaires that rated their feelings of social presence with the robot — that is, how much working with iCat felt like interacting with an intelligent, emotional being — from 1 to 5.
In an earlier study with a similar setup but a nonempathetic iCat robot, kids generally rated their sense of social presence between 2 and 4, and these scores declined between the first and fifth interactions. The empathetic iCat kept the kids at a high level of social presence — between 4 and 5 — from the first through the final session. Twelve kids worked with this robot, which used social behaviors, calling the child by name and making eye contact.
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Another 11 students worked with an asocial bot. From a pretest to a posttest, kids who worked with the asocial bot improved their scores on a point test an average of 2. The socially adept bot may have diverted attention away from the lesson ; children spent about 45 percent more time looking at the social robot than the asocial one.
There are other reasons not to make the robots too engaging. A child who spends more time hanging around agreeable machines than with peers may not develop the social skills necessary to navigate interpersonal conflict, Sharkey says. People tend to think that educational robots are ready to replace teachers, says learning researcher Joseph Michaelis. Not close.
Even if robots are good at helping kids learn specific skills through highly structured exercises, the machines still need more work to handle many activities. So far, investigations of student-robot interactions have typically lasted a couple of weeks or months at most. Roboticists also need to test their technology with children from more diverse backgrounds. Belpaeme and colleagues recently ran an experiment with tutoring robots that helped about children learn a second language.
Educational robots are typically designed to work on very specific tasks. This story appears in the February 16, issue of Science News with the headline, "Study Buddies: They're cute, but will robots actually help kids? Belpaeme et al. Social robots for education: A review.
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Science Robotics. Published online August 15, Should we welcome robot teachers? Ethics and Information Technology. Thinking aloud with a rutoring robot to enhance learning. Ramachandran, C. Huang and B.
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Give me a break! Gordon et al. Affective personalization of a social robot tutor for children's second language skills. Park et al. Growing growth mindset with a social robot peer. Leite et al. Empathic robots for long-term interaction. As students improve with robotics and programming, they learn determination, perseverance, and how to plan and process with technology.
These are all skills that will further their continuing education, and their future career prospects. As another benefit, robotics is a widespread education technology that could lead to more community and educational opportunities. From robotics competitions to showcases for friends and family, robotics drives community involvement, giving students something of which they can be proud.
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