Everyone’s seen a typical robot with machine-like features and human-like responses to the people around them. But, how typical would the robot be if it could replace any ordinary, inanimate object, giving it a personality and a passion for teaching young learners? For generations, wide-eyed and inquisitive children have found knowledge and pleasure in robots on film and television, the likes of Lost in Space’s ‘Robot’ and The Jetson’s Rosie the Maid. Educational researchers and designers have channeled children’s love of watching robots by creating three-dimensional robots that are part-machine, part-human, enchanting, and liberating. Unlike toys–general playthings with limited capabilities, robots can run a class. Yet, can teachers trust that these robots to perform in ‘teach mode’ without controlled supervision and get the job done? The goal for educational robots is clear. Make them engaging, knowledgeable, and sociable.
Language Learning: Toys and Robots
Preschool and elementary language teachers seek novel approaches to instruction. From toys to robots, the search for the best educational resources can be demanding. Both teachers and parents often leverage technology to meet the demands of multi-language education and learning for young children. Whether in school or at home, this can be a challenge for adults who mainly depend on toys as resources for child’s play. Consequently, scientists in the US and abroad have developed complex language-teaching robots that facilitate fun learning tasks better than humans. And, for child development from the ages of 3 to 7, youngsters show a stronger penchant for language learning than many teens and adults. These early learners gain language basics, such as vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation, from robots that simple toys could never achieve. Building discourse and communication skills, these educational robots sustain pleasant, interactive experiences for impressionable children. Hence, three major drivers for language learning success with robots, instead of toys, in pre-school programs tend to be the attention, instruction, and friendship they afford children.
Because these educational robots teach and gather information about children’s language abilities, they can spice up the learning environment through motivation. They can watch children’s interest and excitement while monitoring their boredom and bewilderment. These attentive machines are helpful as they can recognize emotions, as well as decipher nonverbal cues. If a child loses interest in an activity, parents and teachers know how to refocus their goals. Robots can also accomplish this task to enhance the child’s motivation.
Moreover, a child’s time with one of these educational robots is well-spent. These robots, being tireless in the offering of language input to children, have great capacities for instruction. As an ‘affect-sensitive’ teaching system, a robot imparts much knowledge since it simultaneously relates to a child’s emotions and experiences . Basic toys, on the other hand, are less equipped to function at this level and more likely to lose the child’s interest over time.
Lastly, while preschool children enjoy the presence of robots, they not only learn language fundamentals but also recognize these machines for what they are–personable and autonomous. Children are befriended by robots that tap into their creativity and stimulate their minds. Parents and teachers like this social interaction because it supports communicative language learning. When children interact with robots in class and at home, they make fast friends that improve thinking and demystify technology.
One takeaway is that there are three main differences between toys and robots. Showing attention, imparting knowledge, and giving friendship through social interaction, robots can be an additional intelligent help to human mentors. Getting children to engage with educational robots early provides educational, social, and emotional fulfillment that lasts until adulthood.