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4 Ways Social Robots Are Assisting Teachers in Classrooms This Year

Social Robots Assist Teachers

There’s a lot of talk about AI and what it can do for various professions. What about using robots to assist teachers in the classroom? How could educators employ this technology to enhance the learning experience?

Many educators cheer for an extra set of hands — however, robots offer the potential to do much more. Are you excited to learn more about how technology is transforming the educational world?

1. Assisting Students With Disabilities

Children with disabilities often have difficulty getting the most from their educational experience. Those with learning disabilities may struggle with core concepts that hold them back from their peers, even though they don’t lack intelligence. Those with physical or emotional disabilities may encounter difficulty finding support personnel trained to meet their unique needs, but robots can help give these students a fair shot.

Learning Disabilities

Researchers in Ontario, Canada, successfully used a small social robot called QT to work one-on-one with students with learning disabilities. They divided learners into two groups — one with a teacher only and the other with a robot.

The group that worked with the AI tech was better focused and engaged. They also completed the task at higher rates than those who only had the instructor.

Emotional Disabilities

Teachers can use social robots to assist learners with emotional issues that interfere with their classroom experience. For example, students with poor behavior management skills often benefit from using tokens to reinforce positive actions, but teachers might only catch some instances of students doing what they should.

Observant social robots can discreetly award these to reinforce desired behaviors. Students can later redeem them for desired classroom rewards like colored pencils or crayons.

Physical Disabilities

Kids with physical disabilities can also benefit from social robots. For example, they can help those with mobility challenges navigate from class to class by carrying a heavy book load.

Others may assist students with visual impairments by reading written materials aloud. Those who struggle to hear can use TigerChat — a program that translates speech into text and comes in handy when masks make learning a struggle for those who typically read lips.

2. Cultivating Interest in STEM Subjects

A trending issue among educators is how to interest young people in STEM subjects, preparing them for future careers in the science, technology and math sectors. Fortunately, children take to robots differently than other learning tools, perhaps because they combine a non-judgmental nature with consistent reinforcement. They provide the stability young minds need to engage in intellectual exploration.

How can teachers harness robot power to engage children in STEM subjects? Here are some fun lesson plan ideas:

  • Design the most effective robot: Have students design the best device to complete a specific task, such as picking up a piece of paper. This lesson could become a multidisciplinary activity, with math teachers helping students solve the relevant equations while English instructors help them write product descriptions.
  • Design the most creative robot: Instead of assigning a specific task for their AI creations to perform, let learners go wild designing robots to assist with any job they choose.
  • Have a debug-athon: Computer science teachers can create teamwork fun when they hide a problem in a line of code and have student groups compete to make it work smoothly.

Parents can also use social robots to encourage STEM learning outside the classroom. For example, they can invest in toys that engage kids in science and technology without telling them they’re completing a “homework” assignment.

3. Keeping Young Bodies in Motion

Obesity is a growing problem among American kids and it impacts their classroom performance. Children with weight issues often endure teasing and bullying that can make them avoid school, resulting in falling grades. According to the CDC, nearly 20% of American children qualify as obese and more are overweight.

Fortunately, AI technology and social robots can help keep young bodies in motion in a non-threatening, non-judgmental way. For example, children can reap yoga's mindfulness and physical health benefits with programs they can download to their tablet and practice at school or home.

Such applications help students maintain continuity over the summer when they may otherwise fall prey to unhealthy habits, like eating junk food in front of the television. They also eliminate the embarrassment factor. Children who aren’t athletic might shun gym class when forced to participate in competitive activities like dodgeball — social robots let them get in a workout on their terms.

4. Handling Repetitive Tasks

Every teacher has been there — you have a room full of 40 students and only 36 packets of the scheduled examination. Do you leave a responsible student in charge while making a mad dash for the copy machine, praying it doesn’t choose today to jam?

You don’t have to worry about such scenarios if you have the right social robot as a classroom aide. The original idea behind today’s advanced AI technology was to handle the repetitive, mundane tasks that take up too much human time. People are then free to devote those hours to more meaningful activities, like writing specific feedback on homework assignments instead of marking each page with a red checkmark and calling it good.

For example, consider these potential ways teachers can use social robots to free up more of their time for educating students:

  • Grading multiple-choice and true-false tests: Since the earliest ScanTron days, AI has helped teachers mark papers.
  • Collating and organizing handouts: What happens when the copy machine goes down the same day you need a multi-page test packet? Let Robbie the Robot do the collating and stapling.
  • Maintaining classroom inventory: Social robots can track textbooks and devices and alert the teacher when the hand sanitizer stash runs low.
  • Sending mass communication: Robots can automate mass communication campaigns, informing parents better of what’s happening in their child’s classroom.

How Social Robots Assist Teachers

Social robots are everywhere and impacting nearly every field, including education. Teachers can use them to assist them in the classroom in these four exciting ways. By improving support for all students and taking over mundane tasks, educators can free themselves to become the best instructors possible.

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