Sophisticated Machines and Innovative Education: Who (or What) Will Thrive?

Over 10 years ago, educational researchers in California placed a robot made in Japan in a classroom of toddlers, aged 18 to 24 months. After 5 months, the authors stated that the toddlers “treated the robot as a peer rather than as a toy.” [1, pg. 17954]

Five years ago, researchers in Japan and Israel programmed robots to teach six graders about the physics of levers. According to surveys, the students were pleased with the lesson, and most scored well on a quiz about levers. [2]

Today, people are seriously considering the idea of robot teachers becoming a mainstream educational innovation. Some people are excited about that prospect, but others are worried. [3]

In this talk, we will explore the issue the increasing role of sophisticated machines (robots, webbots, and other devices) in education. What are the costs and benefits? Who loses and who gains as more machines enter the classroom? And how are technical advances in robotics likely to affect this trend?


[1] Tanaka, F., Cicourel, A., & Movellan, J. R. (2007). Socialization between toddlers and robots at an early childhood education center. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104(46), 17954-17958.

[2] Hashimoto, T., Kobayashi, H., Polishuk, A., & Verner, I. (2013, March). Elementary science lesson delivered by robot. In Proceedings of the 8th ACM/IEEE international conference on Human-robot interaction (pp. 133-134). IEEE Press.

[3] Sharkey, A. J. (2016). Should we welcome robot teachers?. Ethics and Information Technology, 18(4), 283-297.

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Posted by IAFOR