Teaching (of | by) Robots
and Artificial Intelligence in Schools

How should children be educated about Robots and AI? And can Robots and AI contribute to the education of children? This NWA project aims to find out.

It has been said that we live in a golden age of artificial intelligence (AI). And indeed there is currently an almost continuous stream of important new developments in machine learning and other intelligent systems. Social robots, for example, are now capable of teaching young children words from a second language over a series of interactions. They can do this without any involvement of a teacher and in a manner that is tailored towards the individual child, as was recently shown in the European L2TOR project. The rapid developments in robotics and AI are likely to have a major impact on how people will learn and work in the coming decades.

These developments call for changes in how we teach our youth: they need to be educated for the future, learning to work with, control and program interactive systems and robots, and they need understand the possibilities, but also the risks and limitations of robots and AI. Similarly, educators need to rethink their educational program, and teachers need to learn about the problems and prospects of modern technology and how to integrate this in their lessons. This raises an important research question: how to set-up new education programs? How to involve people with special needs? How to change programs in lower education and improve the prospects of students in these programs? What are the ethical and affective consequences of these changes, both for children and teachers?

Importantly, robotics and AI are not only important topics for education, they can also contribute to education. They can help reduce inequality via personalised interventions: AI techniques allow for adaptation of educational materials towards individual pupils, and they are capable of dealing with diverse populations in ways that individual educators cannot, due to lack of resources. Technologies can also help bridging the complexities of youth development in different contexts, for example by enabling the same intelligent educational technologies in school and at home. Finally, because robots are inherently interesting and engaging for many children, it will arguably be easier to involve them in the development of new teaching technologies, asking what they find important for their future.

To address these issues an interdisciplinary approach is required, combining fundamental and applied research with policy research. For this, we will bring together artificial intelligence and robotics scholars with pedagogy and education researchers, and also involving communication and cognition scientists and ethics experts. Moreover, we will involve societal partners, such as schools and educational interest groups, educational policy makers, publishers of educational materials and educational companies.

This matchmaking project was funded by the National Science Agenda (NWA), as part of the Youth and Education track.