Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Using Robots to Help Teach Students with Autism

Teachers see benefits of robots in classroom

Chanute Elementary teachers who witnessed a desktop robot leading a multi-stepped math lesson say they can envision several ways a social robot could benefit student learning.
The smart robots designed by Van Robotics are being developed as a “study buddy or tutor” that will guide students through a lesson, adapt lessons to a student’s ability, respond to a child’s performance with words of encouragement or notice a lack of focus and redirect the student, or ask if the child needs to take a break.

“The demo was great in guiding the students through a step-by-step process in completing multistep problems,” said CES Title reading teacher Patty Small. “As long as the technology holds the students’ attention, it could benefit them by teaching them to become automatic and fluent in this process and any other problem-solving activities that it may address.”

“I would really enjoy trying this out in my classroom with kids that need some one-on-one time,” said second grade teacher Nikki Jacobs, especially for those occasions when teachers feel they have tried everything they know to help a child, but it’s not working.

“As far as helping students with Autism,  the possibilities would be endless,” said fifth grade teacher Madison Mitchell. “I could see it being used for social group, speech pathology, reading and writing individualize lessons, and really lending itself to the child’s brain ability.”

Shelly Kuhn, a speech pathologist who works with children at CES and Humboldt, has seen the results of using her robot Aisoy as part of her speech and language sessions.

“With my students I have seen increased attention to task, a reduction of off-task behaviors, improved social interaction, and working for longer amounts of time before scheduled breaks,” Kuhn said.
With the support of administration at the ANW Education Cooperative and a USD 413 Foundation grant, Aisoy joined Kuhn’s speech-language program two years ago.

“Research has shown that children on the Autism Spectrum have difficulty understanding social language.  When we speak, students must focus not only on the content of the messages but also try to understand the nuances which accompany our speech, such as pitch changes, volume, inflection, gestures, eye contact and many facial expressions,” Kuhn explained. “That can be very overwhelming for them. With the robot, students can focus on the content of the message first and gradually learn the social factors of communication in a non-threatening approach.”

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