A Good Robot Teacher

A Good Robot Teacher

A Good Robot Teacher

Date posted: September 12, 2017

Educational technology is changing all the time. And, the investment in it is significant. But there is limited evidence to demonstrate its effectiveness in improving student outcomes.

In The Secret to a Good Robot Teacher, David DeSteno (Northeastern University), Cynthia Breazeal (M.I.T. Media Lab), and Paul Harris (Harvard) make the case that one of the current limitations is that people learn best in a social environment and most educational technology lacks true social interaction, which involves verbal and nonverbal cues and a responsive environment. They present two research studies with children and robots that looked at the importance of social cues in learning.

The upshot of these findings is clear. If we want to use technology to help people learn, we have to provide information in the way the human mind evolved to receive it. We have to speak the mind’s language, and that includes the language not only of information but also of social cues. Failing to do so will continue to artificially limit the gains that educational technology promises to offer.

With a more general approach to educational technology, Eight Steps to Improve the Ed-Tech Industry recommends a closer alignment of educational research and ed-tech product development. The first recommendation is “Use what we know about learning to develop product designs.”

For a look at the conditions and practices that support positive outcomes when using educational technology, read Promising Practices: A Literature Review of Technology Use by Underserved Students by Molly B. Zielezinski and Linda Darling-Hammond.

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