Robots in the classroom: Could robots replace tutors, teachers?

Robots have been shown to be effective at increasing cognitive and affective outcomes

In “Social Robots for Education,” a study published last August in Science Robotics, the abstract conveyed: “Social robots can be used in education as tutors or peer learners.

They have been shown to be effective at increasing cognitive and affective outcomes and have achieved outcomes similar to those of human tutoring on restricted tasks. This is largely because of their physical presence, which traditional learning technologies lack.”

The study indicated a few reasons why educational robots are emerging as a teaching trend:
‒ Shrinking school budgets
‒ Growing numbers of
students per classroom
‒ Demand for greater personal-ization of curricula for children with diverse needs

Instead of just seating students in front of a computer screen with software to teach them, overwhelmed teachers have options for a more interactive educational experience via robots. “Robots are a natural choice when the material to be taught requires direct physical manipulation of the world. For example, tutoring physical skills, such as handwriting or basketball free throws,”
the study expressed.

But, don’t expect Siri or Alexa to take over for Mrs. Jones right away.

“Although robot tutors can operate autonomously in restricted contexts, fully autonomous social tutoring behavior in unconstrained environments remains elusive,” the study said. “Although automatic speech recognition and social signal processing have improved in recent years, … speech recognition for younger users, for example, is still insufficiently robust for most interactions.”

Robots are already used for science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM — education.

“More and more educational robots are being developed because they’ve been largely effective in teaching users the fundamentals of robotics along with other topics, including computer programming, artificial intelligence and engineering, in a hands-on, engaging way,” said Maria Jung, product public relations manager at DJI, developers of the RoboMaster S1 educational robot.

She said the RoboMaster S1 was created with the intention of benefitting primarily middle- to high school students’ learning, both inside and outside of the classroom. It helps kids become familiar with the basics of robotics through simple controls, a dedicated app, access to various tutorials and more.

“The main functions of an educational robot are to provide an opportunity to see lessons come to life, educate users in an engaging way and provide a continuous stream of learning with new content,” she added.