Can Robots Boost Children’s Education?

A new study has suggested what the educationalists are trying to say since technology made its way to education, robots can play an important role in the education of young people but will never fully replace teachers. The study was led by Professor in Robotics Tony Belpaeme, from the University of Plymouth and Ghent University.


Writing in Science Robotics, scientists say social robots are proving effective in the teaching of certain narrow subjects, such as vocabulary or prime numbers. However, owing to the current technical limitations (particularly around speech recognition and the ability for social interaction) mean their role will largely be confined to that of teaching assistants or tutors, at least for the foreseeable future.

Compiled in conjunction with academics at Yale University and the University of Tsukuba, the current study involved a review of more than 100 published articles, which have shown robots to be effective at increasing outcomes, largely because of their physical presence. It also explored some of the technical constraints in detail, highlighting that speech recognition, for example, is still insufficiently robust to allow the robot to understand spoken utterances from young children.

It also identified logistical challenges of introducing social robots into the school curriculum, with the risk of some children being seen to rely too heavily on the help offered by robots rather than simply using them when they are in difficulty.

There are also ethical issues along with the practical considerations of introducing robots in education. How far do we want the education of our children to be delegated to machines? Though learners are positive about their experiences, parents and teaching staff adopt a more cautious attitude. So, although the use of robots in educational settings is limited by technical and logistical challenges, for now, it is highly likely that classrooms of the future will feature robots that assist a human teacher.

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