How Robotic Technology Is Reshaping the Education Sector

A wave of excitement sweeps through the autistic students when little Nao enters the classroom. Nao wins the attention of the hard-to-reach tots with a warm greeting. He loves to play with the kids, entertain them, read out stories for them and do most of the things that a buddy would do. Ever since Nao joined this class, the children have begun to display more confidence and better engagement. Even once a child who hardly utters anything said “I want Nao” and it stunned the teachers as it was the first time they saw this child speak. Taking this into account, Nao truly deserves a huge round of applause.

So, who is Nao? The miracle worker, Nao is a two-foot-tall, fully programmable, multi-interactive, engaging and tireless robot that assists autistic children with tailor-made lessons as well as social cues. But Nao is not the only Robot tutor in the world. Elias, the new language tutor at a Finnish primary school, Finland has endless patience for repetition and can speak and understand 23 different languages. Keeko has been hitting several kindergartens in China, telling stories and challenging children with logic problems. Yuki delivers lectures to university students at The Philipps University of Marburg and keeps track of their progress. And yes, they all are robots.

Education today is no more just a one-way street where the teacher instructs and the students just learn. Modern education system is reaching a new height with its focus shifting towards innovation, creativity, and technical advancement. And Robotic technology is playing a crucial role in shaping and defining the educational experience of the future. Combined with specific curriculums and software, robots and robotics are bringing a host of fascinating opportunities to the education sector. So, let’s dive in deep to see how this emerging technology is taking the education to a whole new level.

Robots Tutors for Personalized Learning

Do you remember dozing off during a boring class at school? Sometimes it’s hard to recapture students’ waning attention during a lesson. Also, the learning and grasping speed differs from student to student. A fast track teaching process can leave the struggling students behind while slowing the pace might make it boring for the fastest learners. So, keeping every student on track is something almost difficult to accomplish for an educator. 

This is where robotics technology can bring in a ray of hope for teachers as well as students. Many institutions develop a story and program it into a robot and the robot reads the story aloud and asks questions to the students. This increases student participation and engagement in the classroom to a significant extent. And, we all know that generation-Z loves technology. Therefore, they would be quite keen to learn about new topics through the ultra-modern technology rather than following the old-school approach.  Robots can even modify abstract concepts into simpler, real-world facts which are comparatively easier to comprehend. With endless patience for repetition, they can give individual attention to each student and answer their queries no matter how many times they ask.

Stand-In for Students and Teachers

Max LaDue, a seventh-grader at The School for Creative Studies in North Carolina had been missing his school last year due to chronic stomach migraines. Even for a bright student like LaDue, missing more than half of the school year can make it too hard to keep the academics in focus. But in spite of such challenges, LaDue is now attending all his classroom sessions and doing pretty well, thanks to a robotic technology known as ‘VGo.’ The telepresence robot enables him to be a part of all his classroom discussions. That’s not all. He can even take part in these events by flashing a light with his robotic device, whenever he wants to raise his hand.

Students struggling with terminal illness usually can’t make it to school every day. But with telepresence robots, the classrooms can be taken to the doorsteps of such students. The remote-controlled robot acts as stand-ins for the students and enables them to move, talk, hear, see and interact independently in the classroom even if they are not physically present there. Even the same telepresence robots can also act as stand-ins for teachers to teach a class from anywhere in the world. Thus, students living in remote parts of the world where it’s difficult to find qualified teachers will still be able to get a good quality education.

Helping Hand for Autistic Students

At least one in every 59 children is diagnosed withan autism spectrum disorder. Children diagnosed with autistic often seem intimidated and confused when it comes to communicating with other people. The facial expressions and non-verbal cues which are easy to pick up for other people can be very difficult for an autistic person to comprehend.

Just like Nao, many robots such as Milo, Kaspar and Bandit have been developed to help such kids interact better. The children find the robots much less intimidating as compared to humans as they don’t confuse them with complex facial expressions. In fact, a study by Yale researchers found significant progress in the social skills of the autistic kids after a month of working with robots. The robots can walk, talk, dance and engage students in a number of activities meant to improve their ability to read facial expressions and maintain appropriate eye contact.

So, Can Robots Replace Teachers?

Although robots are still a fair way away from being implemented in every school autonomously, but it has opened up a door of new opportunities in the education sector that will lead to a brighter future. As robotics technologies and artificial intelligence continue growing exponentially, we can expect to witness quite amazing things ahead in the field of education. Soon, the robots might be able to read children’s brains to understand and analyze their learning procedure.  Interestingly, a high school in china is already using facial recognition technology that scans students’ faces every 30 seconds and gives feedback to teachers on how to improve their teaching methods.

With the technology fast taking over many aspects of the education sector, it evokes a question— whether robots can replace teachers in the future? Well, no doubt, this technological revolution will sweep aside old notions of education in the future but that doesn’t mean it will totally take over teaching.

The intention behind the introduction of robots into the classroom is not to replace teachers. Rather, the goal is to use robots as an aid or engaging educational tool in the classroom. Technology is just an extension of human capabilities and teaching humans still requires the human touch. So, instead of worrying that robots might replace human beings, we should recognize the potential of robots to work with teachers to amplify human capabilities. Meanwhile, we need to use each new technology responsibly, always following ethical guidelines and standards while keeping in mind that robots are created to serve humans, not the other way around.