The Use of Robots in Primary Education
By: Clodine Morissette
Scientists have really focused on developing robotics in the last few years. Hence, robots will soon be part of our daily life. They will be present in many places such as hospitals, homes, and schools (Majgaard). Ultimately, their purpose involves helping and replacing humans for different types of work that can be considered dangerous (Linert & Kopacek, 2018). They will also have roles in the entertainment, education, security industries and more (Chin et al., 2011). Australia, Korea, Germany, and other countries have already tried implementing classroom robots to improve teaching (Chang, 2010). Robots can complete tasks such as storytelling, animations, simulations, and moving (Majgaard). This article will discuss the advantages of introducing robots in primary school, the consequences of using a robot as a tool in teaching, and the different features that could improve this new technology.
Learning robotics in primary school:
In many schools, robotics is still an extracurricular activity even though it can be an excellent introduction to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) courses (Mubin et al., 2013). It is an efficient way to learn about programming, computers, engineering, and electronics (Mubin et al., 2013). It is crucial to expose and educate children about technology since it has played a vital role in our lives and will only increasingly become integrated into our day-to-day (Majgaard). Students get hands-on opportunities as they get to try a completely new subject (Chang, 2010). Specifically, they get the chance to program robots using interactive software. They can also build the robots piece-by-piece, learning about mechanics while they do so.
Additionally, since they experience how pieces are assembled, students have the chance to explore and develop their imagination and creativity (Chin et al., 2011). By building and programming robots, students develop problem-solving skills and receive constructive feedback through these programs (NAO). It is thus beneficial for the child's intellectual development since it tests their patience and perseverance (Mubin et al., 2013). A study reported that some teachers noticed children were angry when their code would not work. Therefore, finding errors in a team setting can improve children's teamwork and communication skills (Chang, 2010).
Robot as a teaching tool
Using a robot as a teaching tool is not the same as teaching robotics. A robot used for education is defined as having a body with arms and legs mimicking the human body. It has components like cameras, sensors and speakers to enable them to interact with humans. It can make sounds and movements, recognize faces, and engage with a human talking to them (Choudhury et al., 2018). Scientists program these robots for a specific purpose: to help students learn.
Educators use robots to teach many subjects like science, technology, and languages (Mubin, 2013). The goal is to give children a partner to interact with as they learn (Majgaard). A study showed that this new technology motivates children, makes them more interested in the classroom, and improves their learning, participation, and work completion (Chang, 2010; Choudhury et al., 2018; Chalmers et al., 2022). What's more, students reported that working is more enjoyable when using a robot because it is more interesting than learning with a book. More specifically, they can concentrate longer, even at home (Majgaard; Chin, 2011).
On the other hand, it is essential to remember that the goal of a robot is to improve teaching and not replace teachers. Robots can never replace this profession since children will always need human contact. Interactions with another human are unique and difficult to replicate with technology since humans have real and complex emotions. Children require this physical affection, words of encouragement expressed through human interactions, and the feeling of being listened to and understood by their teacher (Chin et al., 2011). The robot, therefore, functions only as a tool to improve teaching methods.
Robots still need some improvement. Teachers have reported many technical problems, such as a lousy wi-fi connection when wanting to send instructions in the form of code to the robots. It also tends to overheat when used for long periods. As a result, these delays create frustration among students because they can no longer work on the robot (Chalmers et al., 2022). Also, the robot needs check-ups every year, which may further prevent the students from working on the robot (Majgaard). In addition, a robot's pronunciation of words may not always be clear, which may cause students to misunderstand (Majgaard; Chin, 2011). Fixing these issues will make the robot more efficient, thus increasing the likelihood of schools incorporating them in their classes.
To conclude, teaching with the help of robotics benefits children because it exposes them to STEM and allows them to develop many skills. Using robots as learning tools has increased students' class participation and motivation. However, robots have some setbacks which make them sometimes hard to use, such as when they experience technical problems. Scientists are still working on developing robots that will have better interactions with humans at an affordable cost (Linert & Kopacek, 2018). Hopefully, this will motivate schools to include robotics in their curricula.
Chin, K.Y., Wu, C.H., & Hing, Z.W. (2011). A humanoid robot as a teaching assistant for primary education. Fifth International Conference on Genetic and Evolutionary Computing, 21-24, https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=6042708
Chalmers, C., Keane, T., Boden, M., & Williams, M. (2022). Humanoid robots go to school. Springer, https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s10639-022-10913-z.pdf
Chang, C.W., Lee, J.H., Chao, P.Y., Wang, C.Y., & Chen, G.D. (2010). Exploring the possibility of using humanoid robots as instructional tools for teaching a second language in primary school. Journal of Educational Technology and Society, 13(2), 13-24, https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/jeductechsoci.13.2.13
Choudhury, A., Li, H., Greene, C.M., & Perumalla, S. (2018). Humanoid robot-application and influence. Archives of Clinical Biomedical Research, 2(6), 197-226, https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1812/1812.06090.pdf
Linert, J., & Kopacek, P. (2018). Humanoid robots Robotainment. ScienceDirect,IFAC paperOnLine, 51(30), 220-225, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S240589631832963X
Majgaard, G. (n.d.). Humanoid robots in the classroom. IADIS International Journal, 13(1), 72-86, http://www.iadisportal.org/ijwi/papers/2015131106.pdf
Mubin, O., Stevens, C.J., Shahid, S., Al Mahmud, A., & Dong, J. (2013). A review of the applicability of robots in education, Technology for education and learning, 1-7, https://www.academia.edu/es/24957404/A_Review_of_the_Applicability_of_Robots_in_Education
NAO. (n.d.). University of Waterloo. Retrieved Feb 19, 2022 from https://uwaterloo.ca/robohub/people-profiles/nao