10/21-Robots in the classroom-Julia Duchossois

In Robots in the classroom: Differences in students’ perceptions of credibility and learning between “teacher as robot” and “robot as teacher”, Edwards presents a study in which college students perspectives of robots in the classroom setting was tested, and argues that students are more likely to follow suggestions made by an autonomous social robot.

Edwards defines social robots as autonomous and able to follow behaviors associated with its role, and explains some of the benefits robots have shown previously in the classroom including improving math performance, increasing retention rates and reinforcing social behaviors in autistic children. Edwards also explains that the success of robot use in the college setting will depend on how credible the students view the robots to be, and how likely they think they will be able to learn from them. In the study, 86 students were placed into robot as teacher (social robot) and teacher as robot (teacher connected through robot) treatment groups. The participants were exposed to 5 minute lectures, and students were led to believe that both bots were autonomous. The results of the study showed that the telepresence instructor as well as the robot teacher were viewed as credible, however the telepresence robot was rated as more credible than the autonomous social robot. Edwards argues that this result is due to social presence theory, which is the idea that someone is communicating with a social entity rather than a inanimate object. Interestingly, participants reported greater likelihood to take behavioral recommendations from a machine instructor versus a telepresence human instructor, which is contradictory to the original findings. Edwards justifies this by saying that telepresence may be better for creating positive attitudes about a subject matter, while the social robot may be more effective at behavior modifications.

Overall, I found Edwards’ argument valid overall and interesting, but I do see many unanswered questions. One thing that I wonder about is whether the subject matter/content plays a role in the types of robots students would rather interact with. Is it more difficult to learn math or coding from a robot teacher?

4 thoughts on “10/21-Robots in the classroom-Julia Duchossois

  1. I am initially surprised to hear that social robots have been shown to improve math performance and increase retention rates in the classroom. It made more sense to me that social robots had the ability to reinforce social behaviors in autistic children, as in the past I thought about the technology in terms of social interaction. I didn’t think that students would be particularly receptive to social robots in the classroom, and I would have thought that person-to-person teaching would be more effective in improving academic performance. This is likely due to the social presence theory that you mentioned. I also find the question that you raised to be interesting. I imagine that hard skills like coding or math may be more easily taught by robots, whereas discussion based work in English classes, for example, may be harder to facilitate with social robots at this point in the technology.

    1. I am also surprised to hear that social robots actually improve math performance. I think replacing a real-life teacher with a social robot could have poor impacts on students learning and cause them to be distracted, however it seems as though this study says otherwise. I agree with your point as well that if we are going to integrate social robots into the classroom, then it should be more for numerical based studies such as math and coding. In social sciences and language classes, I think it is necessary to have a real-life person teaching the material.

  2. Julia, I really enjoyed reading your blog post. I also read this article for class and thought the distinction of robots as teachers v. teachers as robots was interesting to analyze. In response to your question, I agree with everyone else that has already commented. I think that learning in social sciences and humanities classes would be harder if it were to come from a robot. Math and science classes are more objective and have less room for arguments/feelings. On the contrary, social sciences and humanities classes are more expressive and subjective. As a learner, I have always enjoyed the classes where I feel most connected to the class, subject matter, teacher, and my classmates on a social and emotional level. If I were to learn from a robot as a teacher, I do not think I would feel nearly as connected.

  3. I find this conclusion that students are more likely to follow instructions from a robot to be interesting. With a robot, there is the lack of human connection in terms of feelings. When there’s no emotional response that results from not being listened to, perhaps students are less likely to try ignoring their teacher, if that makes sense. Personally, if I was put in a classroom with a robot instructor, I feel as if I would only be more distracted. I wouldn’t be able to focus on the material– more so, I’d be concerned with the robot.

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