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: Robots in Inclusive Classrooms
Date: Apr 9, 2020
Authors: Hugo Nicolau, Ana Paiva, Wafa Johal, Tiago Guerreiro, Ana Pires, Isabel Neto, Filipa Rocha
Keywords: inclusion, robots, classroom
Previous attempts to make block-based programming acces-sible to visually impaired children have mostly focused onaudio-based challenges, leaving aside spatial constructs, com-monly used in learning settings. We sought to understand the qualities and flaws of current programming environments in terms of accessibility in educational settings. We report on a focus group with IT and special needs educators, where they discussed a variety of programming environments for children, identifying their merits, barriers and opportunities. We then conducted a workshop with 7 visually impaired children where they experimented with a bespoke tangible robot-programming environment. Video recordings of such activity were analyzed with educators to discuss children’s experiences and emergent behaviours. We contribute with a set of qualities that programming environments should have to be inclusive to children with different visual abilities, insights for the design of situated classroom activities, and evidence that inclusive tangible robot-based programming is worth pursuing.
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.