Robots arrive in classrooms

It’s tomorrow. In Europe, and even more so in Asia, robots are making their way into the classroom. Physical objects equipped with sensors and programmed to interact autonomously with their environment, but which – let’s lift a part of the fantasy – barely take on human appearance.

If they appeared in some schools in the early 2000s, it was primarily to help students understand robotics. “To make them understand that the operation of connected objects is not magical but is based on man-made algorithms”specifically Antonin Cois, member of Resnumerica, a group of digital actors.

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These machines make mathematical logic more concrete. “Students have to ask, for example, a robot to rotate or grab an object. If they make programming errors, the effects are immediately noticeable. »

“Make sense of coding”

“Fun, manual, collective learning”, argues Stéphane Brunel. This professor of engineering sciences is also the organizer, on the French side, of Robocup, the largest robotics competition in the world, which in its junior version brings together 450 teams, 90% of which are schoolchildren. Participants must design robots that play football, perform a show, or perform rescue missions. “Something to make sense of coding. »

Thus, robots facilitate learning and even make it possible, through telepresence. “It offers students disabled or sick a dive in the classroom », excited Frank Anjeaux, founding president of Axyn, who concluded a contract with the national education system for the supply of 500 machines. Measuring 1.6 meters, one of the models is mounted on wheels and has, as a head, a screen where the student’s face appears.

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“From home or from the hospital, control your avatar with a joystick. You can move it and, thanks to a light signal, ask to speak. Once the class is over, a tutor takes the robot, very light, to the patio to allow your roommate who has stayed away to enjoy the recreation »continued Frank Anjeaux.

Finally, a robot can also play the role of teacher assistant. “In a somewhat anecdotal way, indicating the date every morning, as is sometimes done in South Korea, where the machine becomes the mascot of the class.points out Didier Roy, a member of the National Institute for Research in Digital Science and Technology (Inria). Or, with the help of artificial intelligence, answering student encyclopedic questions or suggesting the most appropriate series of exercises. »

A robot instead of the teacher?

Does this mean that one day a robot, acquired for a few thousand euros and reluctant to attack, could replace the teacher? Didier Roy, a longtime university professor, can’t believe it. “A student must feel that his teacher is confident in his abilities and wants to see him progress. »

Same conviction with Margarida Romero, professor of education sciences at the University of Nice. “Some robots are able to recognize students’ emotions and measure their level of attention. They also have the advantage of being able to repeat concepts indefinitely without losing patience and can give the student the impression of not being judged. But ultimately, it is the teacher who makes the difference. As it involves pedagogical engineering and permanent adaptation, the teaching profession is one of the least automated. ”he assures.

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“To present robots as a threat to the profession, we run the risk of depriving teachers and students of a valuable learning aid.”, warns Marie-Caroline Missir, the general manager of Canopé. Recently, the public operator offers teachers training in educational robotics, in connection with other disciplines such as mathematics, French, music or languages.

Eager to promote English learning, national education has recently accelerated the deployment of Captain Kelly’s primary school, a voice assistant capable of answering questions from students, much like Alexa, popularized by Google . A way of “Make up for the shortcomings of certain teachers”frankly we recognize, Rue de Grenelle.

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“Algorithms to adapt to the needs of each student”

Thierry de Vulpillieres

CEO and co-founder of the private company EvidenceB

“My company develops modules, especially in mathematics, based on adaptive learning. By extracting from a bench of up to 5,000 exercises, the algorithms allow you to adapt to the needs of each student, offering the most capable elements to help him progress.

The teacher has a board to assess progress and identify bottlenecks. Over time, algorithms group students according to their profile (those that respond based on the lesson, those that mobilize other resources, etc.) and allow them to determine which learning pathways are relevant. »

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