What American children can learn from social robots

How would you feel if your child were being tutored by a robot? Social robots – robots that can talk and mimic and respond to human emotion – have been introduced into classrooms around the world. Researchers have used them to read stories to preschool students in Singapore, help 12-year-olds in Iran learn English, improve handwriting among young children in Switzerland, and teach students with autism in England appropriate physical distance during social interactions. Some experts believe these robots could become “as common as paper, whiteboards and computer tablets” in schools. Because social robots have a body, humans react to them differently than we do to a computer screen. Studies have shown that little children sometimes accept social robots as peers. For example, in the handwriting study, a 5-year-old boy continued to send letters to the robot months after the interactions ended. As a professor of education, I study the different ways that teachers around the world do their jobs. To understand how social robots could affect teaching, graduate student Raisa Gray and I introduced a 4-foot-tall humanoid robot called “Pepper” into a public elementary and middle school in the U.S. Our research revealed many problems with the current generation of social robots, making it unlikely that social robots will be running classrooms anytime soon. Not ready for prime time Much of the research on social robots in schools is done in very restricted ways. Children and social robots are not allowed to freely interact with each other without the assistance, or intervention, of researchers. Only a few studies have used social robots in real-life classroom settings. Also, robotic researchers often use “Wizard…What American children can learn from social robots

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