This project investigates the use of social robots to create inclusive classrooms. Contrary to other interactive technologies, robots act in the environment; namely, they can move in space, which opens novel interactive opportunities for the classroom. Moreover, due to their feedback capabilities and inherently engaging nature, they have the potential to create truly inclusive environments where mix-visual abilities children share the same technology.
Title: Social Robots in Inclusive Classrooms
Date: Jan 30, 2021
Authors: Isabel Neto, Ana Paiva, Wafa Johal, Hugo Nicolau
Keywords: inclusion, robots, classroom
Visually impaired children (VI) face challenges in collaborative learning in classrooms. Robots have the potential to support inclusive classroom experiences by leveraging their physicality, bespoke social behaviors, sensors, and multimodal feedback. However, the design of social robots for mixed-visual abilities classrooms remains mostly unexplored. This paper presents a four-month-long community-based design process where we engaged with a school community. We provide insights into the barriers experienced by children and how social robots can address them. We also report on a participatory design activity with mixed-visual abilities children, highlighting the expected roles, attitudes, and physical characteristics of robots. Findings contextualize social robots within inclusive classroom settings as a holistic solution that can interact anywhere when needed and suggest a broader view of inclusion beyond disability. These include children’s personality traits, technology access, and mastery of school subjects. We finish by providing reflections on the community-based design process.
Visually impaired children are increasingly educated in mainstream schools following an inclusive educational approach. However, even though visually impaired (VI) and sighted peers are side by side in the classroom, previous research showed a lack of participation of VI children in classroom dynamics and group activities. That leads to a reduced engagement between VI children and their sighted peers and a missed opportunity to value and explore class members’ differences. Robots due to their physicality, and ability to perceive the world, socially-behave and act in a wide range of interactive modalities, can leverage mixed-visual ability children access to group activities while fostering their mutual understanding and social engagement. With this work, we aim to use social robots, as facilitators, to booster inclusive activities in mixed-visual abilities classroom.
Geometry and handwriting rely heavily on the visual representation of basic shapes. It can become challenging for students with visual impairments to perceive these shapes and understand complex spatial constructs. For instance, knowing how to draw is highly dependent on spatial and temporal components, which are often inaccessible to children with visual impairments. Hand-held robots, such as the Cellulo robots, open unique opportunities to teach drawing and writing through haptic feedback. In this paper, we investigate how these tangible robots could support inclusive, collaborative learning activities, particularly for children with visual impairments. We conducted a user study with 20 pupils with and without visual impairments, where they engaged in multiple drawing activities with tangible robots. We contribute novel insights on the design of children-robot interaction, learning shapes and letters, children engagement, and responses in a collaborative scenario that address the challenges of inclusive learning.
Inclusion of vulnerable people in society is essential to grant human rights and equal opportunities for all. Our research goal is to mitigate the disparities in education and ensure access to all children, including pupils having a special educational need and disability (SEND) and promote inclusion among students using social robots. Inclusion in schools has different dimensions to be considered, namely: identification of exclusion reasons and behaviours, accessibility to school activities, and promotion of diverse and inclusive culture among children. Our approach to this challenge was a 6-month long community engagement effort with a local school community to get insights into different stakeholders: children with and without disabilities (Visual Impairment and Autism), parents, teachers and several therapists, such as: braille, speech and occupational therapy, psychologists, mobility and navigation. We then conducted a participatory design session to build robots, during lectures, with 50 children with mixed abilities. We contribute novel insights on the design of robots for mixed abilities groups of children, in remote and co-located settings and the challenges and opportunities for an inclusive school raised by the school community.