Robots are entering kindergarten classes, augmenting teaching methods in various ways. There are endless opportunities for classroom use of robots, yet they have not been used to their full potential. As tools, robots have the capacity to make a bold impact in pre-school classrooms: helping to teach reading, spelling and giving an introduction to programming.
The island-nation of Singapore is implementing a maker-centric program which encourages students and parents alike to make use of simple robotic toys to create new things.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and humanoid robots are being introduced to pre-school classes. These technologies are giving early education classes added opportunities and methods to learn basic language skills as well as an introduction to coding. The tools in use, for the most part, look like advanced tech toys. However, the way these toys are used teach students different skills.
One example is Newsela, which is already in use in over 75% of classrooms in the United States. Newsela is a personalized learning tool which curates news articles according to the user’s language level. For advanced users, Newsela publishes an article as it was originally worded. For those who have a less advanced grasp of English, the same article would be revised to use easier and more understandable words. The vocabulary used for the articles would depend on the language level of the student user.
Newsela is part of the personalized learning movement which has gathered a large following in the United States, especially among philanthropists who donate funds for education. Newsela is a favorite due to its premise. Students learn and use language different from one another. The language used would allow students with a lower level reading ability to catch up with additional exercises and instruction.
Robots that Teach
Other robots and AI look more like toys. For example, Fisher Price’s Code-a-pillar teaches kids about programming and robotics, without them knowing it. This animatronic caterpillar toy can be controlled by school children with the use of commands.
The island-nation of Singapore is implementing a maker-centric program which encourages students and parents alike to make use of simple robotic toys to create new things. This allows students to learn and develop their reading skills without the need to use a computer monitor; experts agree that staring at a computer for more than 2 hours a day can make children less able to interact with others and the maker-centric program helps to overcome that.
The Singaporean system makes use of four toys each with their own specific roles. There is BeeBot, Kibo, Dash and Dot, and Circuit Stickers. BeeBot uses a robot to move across a board to answer a question; students can program BeeBot to go to the right answer on the board. Kibo is a wooden robot with attached sensors to detect light and sound, and it also has a bar code scanner. To program Kibo, student scan instructions under a wooden set of connected blocks, which Kibo would follow.
Dash and Dot is also another tool which can teach programming, and is planned to be used by advanced users. The fourth tool, Circuit Stickers uses copper tape, watch batteries, and LED lights, which can all be connected together. The set then lights up when connected to a battery.
These toys are not meant to replace human teachers; instead, these are meant to push what a child can learn, at the same time teach them to work together. These robots can truly leave a bold impact and create a love for technology among children. They learn early on that computers and robots are positive tools that are empowering.