Use of Robots to Help Students With Diverse Needs: Concepts, Opportunities, and Challenges

Use of Robots to Help Students With Diverse Needs: Concepts, Opportunities, and Challenges

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7772-1.ch005
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In most countries, the student population in schools continues to grow more diverse, and the unique learning needs of the students are recognized. In this respect, it is crucial to ensure that policies foster educational outcomes for all students, not just an average general education student. Since working on robots is very stimulating for especially young students, allowing them to develop key skills that will help them be successful during their school years and beyond in terms of problem-solving, creativity, scientific approach, and team spirit, robots are becoming more popular as an educational platform. For that reason, many types of robots are being involved in education. Robots with different features and capabilities, such as simple robots or socially interactive robots, are used in education, and usually, objectives and targets of a study and age group of students dictate the choices regarding robots. Considering the different roles of robots in education, in this chapter, the use of robots in the education of students with diverse needs is reviewed.
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Diversity can be considered as everything that makes people different from each other and includes various factors such as race, ethnicity, age, gender, personality, religious belief, political conviction, socioeconomic class, or ability (Shaw, 2005). Therefore, the fact that each student could bring unique ideas, experiences, and strengths to classrooms and the exploration, comprehension and incorporation of these to enrich learning in the classrooms is understood to be important (Shaw, 2005; Martinez-Acosta & Favero, 2018). It has been shown that diversity changes the way individuals think by fostering creativity and innovation, in addition to decision-making and problem-solving skills (Cox & Blake, 1991). It is expected that diversity both in and out of classrooms will possibly continue to increase; therefore, it is indispensable to prepare students to embrace those differences from themselves. It has been shown that promoting inclusion and developing awareness around multicultural education and adopting a culturally responsive approach to teaching offers considerable benefits to all students (Durodoye, 1998).

It has been shown that the use of robots in education provides a number of critical benefits (Benitti, 2012; Chang et al., 2010; Lopez-Caudana, Ramirez-Montoya, Martínez-Pérez, & Rodríguez-Abitia, 2020; Young, Wang, & Jang, 2010). First, it helps to enable the students to develop co-operative skills and teamwork. Second, it helps to enable the students to create higher confidence and attitude to face the outer world. Third, it helps the students to communicate and learn different platforms provided by robot-supported curriculums. Finally, it helps the students to know their strengths and weaknesses, as well as their passion. However, even sophisticated socially interactive robots are still far from being autonomously used in schools because of their technological limitations (Senft et al., 2019). Therefore, generally, the design goals of robots with educational goals are mainly to function as a stimulating and engaging companion instead of replacing human teachers (Serholt et al., 2014; Sharkey, 2016). However, in order to successfully integrate robots in schools, easy-to-use and well-designed interfacing mechanisms must be provided so that the human teacher will be able to control the robot with little or no training.

In today’s fast moving world and highly-competitive learning environment with new innovations and continuous improvements in technologies, it has become inevitable for both schools and parents to offer STEM education to children. STEM education helps children to compete with other children and be equipped with skills which help them to handle difficult situations in this competitive environment.

Although there is a lack of scientific studies on the topic, it is agreed that robots are a pedagogical tool for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and a motivating, engagement tool for students to pursue STEM studies (Benitti, 2012; Üçgül, 2013). The practical usage of robots in STEM keeps the students engaged until they find a solution for a problem in hand. This way it both enhances the students’ logical perception and improves their analytical and reasoning ability. However, in an educational context, robots are certainly effective beyond STEM. In particular, the key benefit of robots in education is that robots reinforce scientific and technological culture in schools (Jung & Won, 2018). In an educational context, robots provide other benefits. First, they are ideal tools for making abstract knowledge concrete. Second, through a number of specific activities, they are quite useful for applying scientific thinking (Barak & Zadok, 2009). Finally, through trans-disciplinary activity-based projects they enable the transfer of knowledge.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Engagement: The quality of a child's involvement with the learning activities, which represents a direct pathway to learning.

Telepresence: It is a technique to create a sense of physical presence at a remote location.

Social Robot: It is a robot with ability to interact and communicate with humans or other autonomous agents by following social behaviours and rules.

Humanoid Robot: It is a robot with body shape resembling the human body and ability to mimic human motion and interaction.

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