How NAO is Impacting Students' Problem-Solving Skills
Educational robots are well studied and documented since the past decade and have found varieties of applications in the education industry. These include as an education tool, a teacher assistant, a teaching companion for children especially with autism, a supplement for special education, an entertainment-based education tool, technology for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) education, and so forth.
The use of robots in the classroom introduces students to possible career paths they may have never considered. Also, robotics can be used as a way to show students that engineering and IT can be fun by making abstract knowledge concrete. Working with robots enhances creative problem-solving skills and encourages the development of essential communication and interpersonal skills. It also helps develop the students' ability to collaborate and convey complex ideas to their peers.
What Really Happens when Humanoid Robots are Integrated into the Regular Curriculum? Does it Impact the Student's Intellect, Computational Thinking, Ability to Grasp Information, or is it just a Futile and Overarching Attempt?
To answer this, let us explore a study conducted in Australia with the help of NAO robots. The Association of Independent Schools of South Australia (AISSA) purchased two NAO humanoid robots to use in independent schools in South Australia. The AISSA allocated the robots to selected schools for a period of eight weeks, with 19 classrooms involved along with 12 teachers; NAO was used for an age group of 4 to 15 year-olds. To evaluate computational thinking, a few themes were studied in detail and became the vital factors for the study, such as Curiosity, Challenge, Collaboration, Communication, Critical thinking, and Creative thinking.
Here are some of the findings from the study and how NAO impacts computational thinking.
- NAO's irresistible nature made teachers and students interact with NAO, to foster deeper understanding and learning.
- NAO's human-like characteristics sparked an unexpected emotional connection with NAO, even though there was a conceptual recognition from the 4 years olds through to the 15-year-olds that the robot was really just programmable hardware.
- NAO invoked empathy from the children. For example, when NAO would fall, the children would ask, 'NAO, are you ok?'
- The ebullient nature of NAO made the children interact with it, treating it more as a human than a robot.
- Curiosity fuelled the kids' motivation as they performed complex operations, such as voice recognition, with ease.
- The interdependent relationship between curiosity and complexity motivated students to master the software, thereby fostering deep learning.
- Teachers reported that through their initial curiosity, students were intellectually engaged when working with the robot. They developed strategies to enable them to solve problems and then created and refined code to make the robot behave according to their plan. Most students chose projects that were challenging, and the successful execution of their intended robot behavior necessitated significant new learning.
- Teachers stated that the robots provided a classroom where differentiated, self-directed learning took place.
- The children interacted with NAO in their own way, choosing their level of difficulty and complexity, thereby going at their own pace, implementing 'learning by doing' approach, and self-directed learning.
- The robot not only extended learners with the particular skill sets of creativity and risk-taking but also left some questions hanging about the attributes that traditionally encouraged students.
- It seems the creativity and risk-taking when coding with NAO [humanoid robot] plays to the strengths of these students [not traditionally academic].
- Teachers claim that "Having the NAO [humanoid robot] will show you more about a student's way of thinking, abilities, and strengths than any test will ever reveal."
- The Students' curiosity in engaging with the humanoid robot extended to using the humanoid robot's drag and drop programming software, and in some cases, students used Python to code.
- Even the youngest students in this study learned how to program the robot by pasting paper-based, instructional icons onto a sheet of paper. The students then used string, wool, or felt pen to connect the icons as a visual representation of their flow chart.
- The students were able to break social and mental boundaries and fostered a risk-taking approach enabling deep learning.
Hear from Rosa, a 10 year old from St George College, who describes her experience of learning STEM with NAO.
The study made the teachers realize that their pedagogy approach needs to be altered according to the students and their computational abilities, which was made clear by the use of NAO robots. Embedding innovative technology such as the humanoid robot into the classroom encouraged both teachers and students to communicate their ideas and understanding, creating a more collaborative classroom. In this study, teachers described how everyone became part of a learning community where the learners brought various skill sets to the community. It changed the classroom relationship between the teacher and students and provided further understanding of the impact of innovative technologies on new roles for teachers. To develop their programming ideas into actuality, students needed to use their problem-solving to extend existing NAO routines and to pursue the more complex ideas they wanted to include. Students' ideas and coding skills expanded, as they experimented with programming the humanoid robot by building on their own and others' ideas.
Therese Keane, Christina Chalmers, Monica Williams, Marie Boden. The impact of humanoid robots on students' computational thinking Humanoid robots and computational thinking.
In the space of fewer than 10 years, we have become the leader of the humanoid robot market. More than 25,000 SoftBank Robotics robots – NAO and Pepper – are used in more than 70 countries, in various sectors, ranging from retail to tourism, health, and education. In the Education sector, our robots have been a vital part of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) through robotics. We also hold and participate in various robotics competitions and events around the world like NAO challenge, RoboCup, and AcaDay, etc. Our robots have been used in different researches by hundreds of researchers and educational institutes. We have been an eminent figure in specialized education, and are working closely with developers to provide innovative solutions.
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