Captivating and Motivating Young Children with Humanoid Robots: The NAO@School Project
75% of Educators face the challenge of motivating children and finding new ways to teach. Discover the story of a French school that managed to achieve this objective using NAO.
Educators worldwide are faced with multiple challenges throughout the course of their careers. According to most, their biggest challenge is the dreaded word, motivation; how do you motivate children to come to class every day willingly and leave school with excitement to learn something new the next day?
According to a recent webinar survey conducted by SoftBank Robotics, close to 75% of participants face the challenge of finding new ways of teaching and ultimately motivating children to learn. If you are in the same boat, worry no more. We have the perfect solution. In this blog, we will explore one such success story of a secondary school in France who used the humanoid robot NAO to reach its objectives of making reading and writing fun, and at the same time, improving digital literacy.
NAO@School Inception: Can Robots Help with Writing Skills?
After a series of meetings between SoftBank Robotics Europe and La Main à la Pâte (a foundation of educators with an aim to develop STEM education) discussing the ways of improving the quality of education in schools and shifting towards a modern form of teaching, the NAO@School Project was born. This experiment took place at the Georges Charpak school in Nogent-Sur-Oise, near Paris, over a period of six months, intending to inculcate interest in writing and reading and develop a strong base for STEM education. Two teachers shared the NAO@School project’s responsibility and developed activities using NAO with technical support from the SoftBank Robotics office in Paris.
Love at First Sight: Overcoming Teachers Fear of Complexity
Before starting the project, the teachers introduced NAO to the kids, and the children were fascinated by the humanoid, which most had not seen before. NAO fueled their curiosity, and the kids did what they do best, ask questions. NAO was introduced with a bang as it spoke, performed actions, and danced with its ebullient personality, winning little kids’ hearts. “The children had found their new study buddy and were utterly excited and motivated to kickstart their learning journey with NAO.”
The project’s title “L’Histoire Dont Vous Êtes le Héros” translating to “The Story You Are the Hero Of,” is a choose your own adventure story where the children had to create their own multiple-choice treasure hunt story, which would ultimately be told and performed by NAO. The interdisciplinary project developed by the teachers integrated the entire French program, including oral expression, writing, literature, and language study with computer science fundamentals. Divided into small groups of four, the children first had to write their ideas down, build the sentences collectively, align with the grammatical rules, and agree on the adventure course. Finally, the students proceeded to the programming stage using choregraphe to tell their stories vividly.
The daily routine of the children included studying the text and ultimately programming NAO. The children developed not only fundamental skills of the French language, such as word formation, grammar, and spellings but also technical skills of programming the robot using Choregraphe(a visual programming tool consisting of flexible boxes containing functions such as moving, speaking, etc.). “These activities have fostered team-spirit and developed social and psychological aspects of the children’s young developing brains. These robotics activities brought them together and cemented deeper relationships”.
The One for the Books: 6 Months with a Robot in the Classroom
“The children were delighted to spend these six months with NAO and are aware of having progressed in writing. The school would never have gone so far in writing production without this innovative medium. The programming activity has made it possible to give children a first technological approach and prepare them for the future. Most importantly, the children were able to question things and learn from mistakes. This helped them develop strong logic and problem-solving skills, which will help them in the future,” principal Nicolas Demarthe added. A Project like NAO@School is an example of what can be achieved with the help and technology in such a short span of time. The Teachers of NAO@School project have a special message to other educators worldwide who want to use robotics technology for increasing motivation, morale, and developing skills of the future.
Final Words: Foster Deep Learning with Robots
We at SoftBank Robotics lead the way in humanoid technology and would like to use this power for the greater good, solving grass-root problems that hinder our society’s growth. We strongly believe in robotics’ potential as a new digital vector for education. We wish to continue these democratization efforts in the field by paving the way for new forms of pedagogy in classrooms. We continuously look forward to helping classrooms achieve their goal and objectives using proven innovative methods such as project-based learning and curriculum integration.