Learning to program a humanoid robot in a special-needs school
Tuesday, June 26 11:25-11:45 AM Location: Oud West
Presider: Thierry Karsenti, University of Montreal, Canada
Abstract: In the digital age, we hear more and more about programming, or coding. Some countries, including Sweden and France, have already made coding a compulsory school subject. We must face the fact that coding is now an essential skill for today’s youth (Karsenti & Bugmann, 2017), and one of the 21st century competencies that all students will need to acquire (The Ontario Public Service, 2016; van Laar et al., 2017). Plenty of tools have been developed to teach coding, including apps like Scratch, Scratch Jr, and Swift Playgrounds as well as websites like code.org. They are all designed to teach students how to code and to understand something about how digital devices work, devices that we use daily. Robots are permeating our world, including schools. Young schoolchildren are now learning to program (or code), and some countries have made coding a compulsory school subject. Still, very often—too often—, such initiatives remain the prerogative of individual schools that accommodate students classified as ‘regular,’ or without problems. But how would these same initiatives impact children with learning difficulties? To respond to this question, we conducted a robot-assisted coding project in two special-needs schools in the province of Québec, Canada. Our results show that coding with a humanoid robot had positive effects on students with learning difficulties in terms of engagement in class and expected learning outcomes.