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Promotion of 21st Century skills

Artificial curiosity, based on developmental psychology concepts wherein an agent attempts to maximize its learning progress, has gained much attention in recent years. Similarly, social robots are slowly integrating into our daily lives, in schools, factories, and in our homes. In this contribution, we integrate recent advances in artificial curiosity and social robots into a single expressive cognitive architecture. It is composed of artificial curiosity and social expressivity modules and their unique link, i.e., the robot verbally and non-verbally communicates its internally estimated learning progress, or learnability, to its human companion. We implemented this architecture in an interaction where a fully autonomous robot took turns with a child trying to select and solve tangram puzzles on a tablet. During the curious robot’s turn, it selected its estimated most learnable tangram to play, communicated its selection to the child, and then attempted at solving it. We validated the implemented architecture and showed that the robot learned, estimated its learnability, and improved when its selection was based on its learnability estimation. Moreover, we ran a comparison study between curious and non-curious robots, and showed that the robot’s curiosity-based behavior influenced the child’s selections. Based on the artificial curiosity module of the robot, we have formulated an equation that estimates each child’s moment-by-moment curiosity based on their selections. This analysis revealed an overall significant decrease in estimated curiosity during the interaction. However, this drop in estimated curiosity was significantly larger with the non-curious robot, compared to the curious one. These results suggest that the new architecture is a promising new approach to integrate state-of-the-art curiosity-based algorithms to the growing field of social robots.  to the full article


Acknowledging the benefits of active learning and the importance of collaboration skills, the higher education system has started to transform toward utilization of group activities into lecture hall culture. In this study, a novel interaction has been introduced, wherein a social robot facilitated a small collaborative group activity of students in higher education. Thirty-six students completed a 3 h activity that covered the main content of a course in Human Computer Interaction. In this within-subject study, the students worked in groups of four on three activities, moving between three conditions: instructor facilitation of several groups using pen and paper for the activity; tablets facilitation, also used for the activity; and robot facilitation, using tablets for the activity. The robot facilitated the activity by introducing the different tasks, ensuring proper time management, and encouraging discussion among the students. This study examined the effects of facilitation type on attitudes toward the activity facilitation, the group activity, and the robot, using quantitative, and qualitative measures. Overall students perceived the robot positively, as friendly and responsive, even though the robot did not directly respond to the students' verbal communications. While most survey items did not convey significant differences between the robot, tablet, or instructor, we found significant correlations between perceptions of the robot, and attitudes toward the activity facilitation, and the group activity. Qualitative data revealed the drawbacks and benefits of the robot, as well as its relative perceived advantages over a human facilitator, such as better time management, objectivity, and efficiency. These results suggest that the robot's complementary characteristics enable a higher quality learning environment, that corresponds with students' requirements and that a Robot Supportive Collaborative Learning (RSCL) is a promising novel paradigm for higher education.  to the full article


While social robots for education are slowly being integrated in many scenarios, ranging from higher-education, through elementary school and kindergarten, the use case of robots for toddlers in their homes has not gained much attention. In this contribution, we introduce Patricc, a robotic platform that is specifically designed for toddler-parent-robot triadic interaction. It addresses the unique challenges of this age group, namely, desire for continuous physical interaction and novelty. Patricc’s unique design enables changing characters by using dress-able puppets over a 3D-printed skeleton and the use of physical props. A novel authoring tool enables robot behavior and content creation by non-programmers. We conducted an evaluation study with 18 parent-toddler pairs and compared Patricc to similar tablet-based interactions. Our quantitative and qualitative analyses show that Patricc promotes significantly more triadic interaction, measured by video-coded gaze, compared to the tablet and that parents indeed perceive the interaction as triadic. Furthermore, there was no novelty-induced significant change in task-oriented behaviors, when toddlers interacted with two different characters consecutively. Finally, parents pointed out the benefits of changeable puppet-like characters over tablets and the appropriateness of the platform for the target age-group. These results suggest that Patricc can serve as the first gateway of toddlers to the emerging world of social robots.  to the full article


Mindset has been shown to have a large impact on peo-ple‘s academic, social, and work achievements. A growth mindset, i.e., the belief that success comes from effort and perseverance, is a better indicator of higher achievements as compared to a fixed mindset, i.e., the belief that things are set and cannot be changed. Interventions aimed at promoting a growth mindset in children range from teaching about the brain's ability to learn and change, to playing computer games that grant brain points for effort rather than success. This work explores a novel paradigm to foster a growth mindset in young children where they play a puzzle solving game with a peer-like social robot. The social robot is fully autonomous and programmed with behaviors suggestive of it having either a growth mindset or a neutral mindset as it plays puzzle games with the child. We measure the mindset of children before and after interacting with the peer-like robot, in addition to measuring their problem solving behavior when faced with a challenging puzzle. We found that children who played with a growth mindset robot 1) self-reported having a stronger growth mindset and 2) tried harder during a challenging task, as compared to children who played with the neutral mindset robot. These results suggest that interacting with peer-like social robot with a growth mindset can promote the same mindset in children.  to the full article


Curiosity is key to learning, yet school children show wide variability in their eagerness to acquire information. Recent research suggests that other people have a strong influence on children’s exploratory behavior. Would a curious robot elicit children’s exploration and the desire to find out new things? In order to answer this question we designed a novel experimental paradigm in which a child plays an education tablet app with an autonomous social robot, which is portrayed as a younger peer. We manipulated the robot’s behavior to be either curiosity-driven or not and measured the child’s curiosity after the interaction. We show that some of the child’s curiosity measures are significantly higher after interacting with a curious robot, compared to a non-curious one, while others do not. These results suggest that interacting with an autonomous social curious robot can selectively guide and promote children’s curiosity. to the full article


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