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Robot Assisted Learning: The Future Ahead

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As the computer sparked revolutionary changes in learning environments, it is likely that robots will also bring changes in education. It is important to understand various approaches from the perspective of pedagogy and student learning, observes Akash Tomer of Elets News Network (ENN).

Educational utilisation of robotics has seen a considerable worldwide growth in last few years. In line with this, several attempts have been made to introduce robotics in school education from kindergarten to high secondary school (K-12) in subjects other than science, mathematics and technology.

It is likely that the use of robots in the classroom will help students to explore diverse career paths. Moreover, robotics is a perfect way to show students that engineering and IT can be fun by making abstract knowledge concrete. Working with robots enhances creative problem solving techniques. These machines also help in improving basic communication and interpersonal skills, ability to collaborate, and convey complex ideas to a fellow students or colleagues.

It is important to note that innovation in school education should not be limited to introduction and access to a new technology. Education innovation is a broad term that includes appropriate educational philosophy, curriculum and learning environment among others. These factors are important for any educational innovation to become successful. Similarly, introduction of robots should be considered as introduction of new tool. It is the teaching-learning/pedagogical practices that will determine the learning impact coming from robotic applications.

What is a Robot?

Robots can be defined as programmable machines or gadgets that can be used in place of humans to perform a range of tasks by executing input commands. As the world looks forward to a full- fledged Artificial Intelligence (AI), it is expected that the robots will soon have more advanced features.

For example: Alexa, a voice bot by Amazon, has already made headlines with its ability to learn new skills through its sound interface. Humanoids like Hanson Robotic’s Sofia are another pointer to how the world is moving quickly into a future of robots. In fact, the pilot tests that have been carried out on a number of modern creations reinforce the message that robotic capabilities will closely resemble to those of humans.

How far has the Development of Robotics Come?

Modern robotics began in the early 1950s, when George C Devol created a robot called “Unimate”. The machine was programmable, a concept that still applies to modern techniques. Joseph Engleberger, a businessman and engineer, bought Unimate in the 1960s and began mass production of robots. To date, Joseph Engleberger is referred to as the father of the modern robotics industry. Today, advanced robotics continues to surprise those of us who couldn’t have fathomed the existence of AI bots like Sofia, Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Assistant. But thanks to tech giants like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple, and others that continue to set the pace, this sector is something to marvel at.

Early Developments of Robotics in Academia

Academia has been at the centre of robotics worldwide for many years now. In 1958, researcher Charles Rosen led the Stanford Research Institute in developing Shakey – An industrial-scale robot with more advanced features. For example, it could move around a room, perceive its surroundings, and even respond to them to some extent. Today, robots like Milo and ASK NAO are continuing to bring the world into a future of artificial intelligence.

It is observed that the use of robotics has simplified complicated medical procedures, made dangerous construction projects safer and exploration of our universe possible. On similar lines, application of robotics and simulators to education can change the way students learn that ultimately will lead towards knowledge-based society.

Elementary and School Education

Robotics in Education allows students to learn STEM disciplines in different ways and facilitate students’ skills and attitudes for analysis and operation of robots. Educational robotics strengthens and supports students’ skills developing their knowledge through the creation, design, assembly, and operation of robots.

Robotics in the classroom helps children and young students with particular requirements to develop their own personal learning experience, accessing information and educational contents through a tailor-made path. Robots in school education can also represent a helpful solution for those students who cannot attend school. Robots can be used to bring students into the classroom that otherwise might not be able to attend.

Higher Education

Many careers require specialised knowledge in delicate practices, specifically in the realm of healthcare. When receiving a medical education, many students find benefits in the use of robotics. When learning to perform complicated medical procedures, a human subject isn’t feasible, so educators are employing the use of robots as stand-ins. Robots can be created and programmed to give off all indications of human life, including breath and heartbeat. Their use can also be seen in such procedures as injections, surgeries and even delivering children.

Special Education

Students with special requirements are reaching new levels of learning through the use of robotics in the classroom. With these technologies children with autism are learning communication and social skills and students with developmental issues and attention disorders are learning focus. Individuals with severe physical disabilities are also offered a constant companion and health monitoring system – all through the use of robotics. Robots can be programmed to suit each individual child’s need, offering special education in a much simpler, accessible format.

Why Teach Robotics in Educational Institutes?

Robotics is gaining momentum in many educational institutes across the world. It’s important to note here that teachers who administer courses in this area should advanced knowledge in programming and other skills as it will help students reaping huge benefits, not just for the present, but also for the foreseeable future. Here are seven areas in which learning about robotics or through at educational institutes can benefit students.

Creative Thinking: Not many fields of knowledge incorporate creativity and fun simultaneously. Studies have shown that robotics achieves both. In fact, students love to partake in activities in which they have full control, something that is possible with robotics. And when learners are able to do cool stuff, they want to develop more features.

Engagement: Hands-on learning activities enhance concentration and attention levels, because the more students learn physical skills, the more they want to continue being in the lesson.

Preparedness: With advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), driverless cars, and spacecrafts taking shape every day, the present generation of students need to be more prepared for technological changes than ever before.

Programming Skills: As artificial intelligence becomes more prevalent in homes, schools, and offices, a little programming knowledge will help everyone understand how these bots work.

Perseverance: Creating and programming bots is challenging. However, working through frustration helps students develop a never-give-up attitude. It imparts determination, which is crucial for any technological or scientific undertaking. Teamwork Robotics incorporates a range of skills, and thus promotes a learning environment for people with different talents. If properly harnessed, it also promotes a culture of teamwork. It can even be used to help students who might struggle to learn in traditional classroom settings – for example, the ASK NAO robot was developed to help autistic students, and its main goal is to bring everyone on board through modern educational-technology approaches in academia.

Fun: Learning about robotics is fun and as designs continue to improve how, it will only become more so!

Robots have already made their mark in education and will continue to do so. However, how useful or potentially harmful robots can be to education will depend more on how educators and students choose to use them than on the technology itself. Educators must embrace the latest skills and knowledge for effective teaching. That’s why they should embrace robotics, which is breaking new ground in learning methodologies around the world.

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