Examining the Use of Robots as Teacher Assistants in UAE Classrooms: Teacher and Student Perspectives

Mariam Alhashmi, Omar Mubin, Rama Bassam Baroud
Journal of Information Technology Education: Research  •  Volume 20  •  2021  •  pp. 245-261

This study sought to understand the views of both teachers and students on the usage of humanoid robots as teaching assistants in a specifically Arab context.

Social robots have in recent times penetrated the educational space. Although prevalent in Asia and some Western regions, the uptake, perception and acceptance of educational robots in the Arab or Emirati region is not known.

A total of 20 children and 5 teachers were randomly selected to comprise the sample for this study, which was a qualitative exploration executed using focus groups after an NAO robot (pronounced now) was deployed in their school for a day of revision sessions.

Where other papers on this topic have largely been based in other countries, this paper, to our knowledge, is the first to examine the potential for the integration of educational robots in the Arab context.

The students were generally appreciative of the incorporation of humanoid robots as co-teachers, whereas the teachers were more circumspect, expressing some concerns and noting a desire to better streamline the process of bringing robots to the classroom.

We found that the malleability of the robot’s voice played a pivotal role in the acceptability of the robot, and that generally students did well in smaller groups with the robot; teachers expressed concern that the children would become easily distracted should too many children be privy to one robot.

Our results provide valuable recommendations for researchers in the area. We believe, there needs to be continued efforts in devising suitable methodological assessment tools to evaluate student and teacher attitudes in the classroom particularly in the Arab world. We also advise researchers to focus on providing adaptive behavior in the context of educational robots. There are different distinct areas that need further clarifications and study based on our review.

On a wider scale, the findings of this paper have a huge implication for the educational technology as the integration of robotics in education is one of the emerging trends in the area, particularly in the UAE. This study allows to answer questions related to attitudes and perceptions of both teachers and students toward educational robots in the UAE.

Possible avenues of research in the area include focusing on the adaptive and natural behavior of robots in disciplines other than Mathematics as a means of successfully integrating robots in the classroom.

humanoid robots, focus groups, Emirati school, teaching, assistants, Arab culture
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