District Administration January 2020 - 36

Robots excel at access
Starting with calming techniques,
Milo, developed by RoboKind, shows
students how to stop and take a breath or
squeeze a ball. That carries into daily life
when students get upset and ask themselves, "What would Milo do?" Dove says.
Children on the autism spectrum have
difficulty determining how other people
are feeling. Milo has dozens of facial expressions-his eyebrows move and his
teeth chatter, for example-and his video
camera can record students and show
them on his video screen if they are responding appropriately.
"Students can mimic Milo's emotions,"
Dove says. "When he's happy, they can get
a feel for whether they look happy, too."
Adding Milo required very little technology training, but Dove says she did
have to adjust her lesson planning to integrate the device, which she typically uses
with one student at a time so the robot
can generate data on each child's progress.
Richard Margolin, chief technology
officer and founder of RoboKind, says
one reason robots are so effective at teaching social-emotional skills is that, unlike
humans, the devices can repeat the same
lessons without getting frustrated.
"That consistency and repetition is
really important," Margolin says. "It's
comfortable and it's predictable, and Milo
never gets impatient or angry. Milo never
has a bad day."
Teachers have reported that nonverbal
students who have used Milo have begun
communicating more effectively because
in speaking to the robot, the children have
seen that communicating makes life easier.
This type of development allows students
to spend more time in general education
classes, which can save districts money.
"In this way, special education classes
become more like stepping stones because

Students who have trouble
communicating and those
who employ assistive devices
to speak have increased their
use of language during and after
their work with the robot.
kids make progress and require fewer services," Margolin says.
Coding the Big Bad Wolf
Few teaching tools captivate students as
deeply as robots, says Caster, of Boston
Public Schools. She uses the KIBO robot,
by KinderLab Robotics, to teach lessons
on math, animal life cycles and even fairy
tales to students with autism, Down syndrome and other special needs.
KIBO, at first glance, could be mistaken for a toy that a child might use to
learn shapes. But KIBO is all about programming and introducing children to
computer science.
Children using KIBO place blocks
with QR codes in a specific order, and
then use a scanner to teach their program
to the robot. They get to see if the robot
follows their instructions.
For example, Caster's students programmed KIBO to be the Big Bad Wolf.
They recorded their voices saying "I'll huff
and I'll puff," and then built small houses
out of different materials to test if the
robot could run over them.
The activities transcend coding, math
and language arts, and they help students
develop key skills for problem-solving and
creativity, following directions and staying

Robotics in Special Ed: Encouraging Storytelling and Writing Across Curriculum"
is just one of many special education sessions offered during DA's National
Future of Education Technology® Conference, Jan. 14-17 in Miami. To view the
full agenda and register, visit www.fetc.org.

on task, and working in a group and independently, Caster says.
"It brings all of those elements together
to ensure there's a variety of access points
for each child," she says.
Students who have trouble communicating and those who employ assistive
devices to speak have also increased their
use of language during and after their
work with the robot. "They want to communicate," Caster says. "They've become
comfortable working in groups and are
engaged enough to take risks."
KIBO was designed to combine the
concrete, real-world elements of blocks
and the abstract thinking required for coding, says Jason Innes, KinderLab's manager
of training and curriculum development.
"Some kids on the spectrum really connect with the robot because they like the
fact that their commands are carried out
exactly and predictably," Innes says.
Students on the spectrum can use the
robot to communicate. Teachers, for example, can have students create a map
of their neighborhood or town, and then
each child can program a story about what
they did the previous weekend by making
the robot drive around map to the park,
library or shopping mall.
"It also keeps students off screens and
in the physical world," Innes says. "Children are learning abstract concepts and
skills, but they can see concrete effects in
the classroom." DA
Matt Zalaznick is senior writer.

36 | January 2020

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District Administration January 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration January 2020

District Administration January 2020 - Cover1
District Administration January 2020 - Cover2
District Administration January 2020 - 1
District Administration January 2020 - 2
District Administration January 2020 - 3
District Administration January 2020 - 4
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