Daily BulletinHoliday Centre

The Conversation

  • Written by Therese Keane, Associate Professor, Deputy Chair Department of Education, Swinburne University of Technology
How a robot called Pink helped school children bring an Aboriginal language back to life

A cute human-like robot taught students in a small, rural school how to code while also helping them learn their local Aboriginal language.

The Maitland Lutheran School is an independent, co-educational primary and middle school in the farming district of Maitland, Yorke Peninsula, in South Australia. It is located on the traditional lands of the Narungga people.

The school has around 240 students from Kindergarten to Year 9, and 16% of them are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Many of these students have Narungga heritage.

The school wanted to support its students to connect with the heritage of the Narungga people, in partnership with the local Aboriginal community.

Past research has shown digital technologies can help rediscover lost Indigenous languages. Technologies with culturally responsive ways of teaching have also been shown to improve engagement and learning among Indigenous students in STEM subjects.

Read more: Reviving Indigenous languages – not as easy as it seems

So, the school’s principal, David Field, decided to employ a small robot named Pink to help students understand their local culture and language. And it worked.

By learning to program a humanoid robot, students developed 21st-century skills while also engaging with an Indigenous culture and language. The project also strengthened the connection between school, home and Country.

Why did Pink work so well?

The Maitland Lutheran School had long wanted to connected its students with Narungga culture and language. About eight years earlier, the school bought paper dictionaries of Narungga, but children had shown little interest in them.

The principal engaged the only fluent speaker of Narungga to work with the school’s teachers and students. The aim was to engage the school’s Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students in learning about both innovative technologies and Narungga culture.

Humanoid robots look like humans and have movements that are human-like. So students are drawn to them and want to make them function like a human, by making them talk, move their arms and walk.

Some research has shown school students feel more comfortable – less anxious and self-conscious – learning a new language when they can practise on a robot compared to a human.

Apart from the cuteness factor, students believe the robot is not judgmental when they make mistakes.

Read more: Why more schools need to teach bilingual education to Indigenous children

How it panned out

It didn’t take long for Pink to captivate the students. Students formed a relationship with the robot and became attached to it. One of the teachers said her students treated the robot like “they would a younger child”.

Another teacher said the students:

… humanised the robot within seconds, came and touched Pink’s hand to shake it and waved goodbye on leaving the room. All students wanted to be the first to talk, touch and engage with Pink.

As the students’ enthusiasm and confidence using the robot increased, they wanted Pink to have more functionality, so they started learning how to program her.

They wanted Pink to speak Narungga. But they discovered Pink could not pronounce the Narungga words when they typed the words correctly into the programming language.

So, using their problem-solving skills, students trialled the phonetic spelling of the words until they achieved the correct Narungga pronunciation.

A Year 1 and 2 teacher said:

Deep learning occurred in terms of cultural awareness and language acquisition. Most of the students knew very little, if any, Narungga words. (Some did not even know the word Narungga!) In terms of information technologies the students have truly grown from not understanding that Pink was programmable to programming her to do a variety of things.

So, the students at Maitland Lutheran School learnt not only the Narungga language but also how to use a programming language to control a humanoid robot. It was a steep learning curve to learn and understand two different ways of communicating, one old and one new.

The work with the robot turned into community engagement as students’ enthusiasm involved many teachers and the wider school community. Teachers observed students saying “Hello” in Narungga to other staff members.

The principal said the school community was starting to express pride in the traditional culture of the area, which was not evident before. The principal said:

This has not only engaged our students; it has engaged our staff as well. It has given them encouragement in what they have seen from the students to keep progressing with the [Narungga] language as well as the digital side of things.

It hasn’t just been for our Narungga students, it’s been across the board with all of our students. It’s been a great way of getting them to network together […] to work on something that has an Indigenous perspective but means a lot to everybody.

Emerging technologies can play a role in engaging young people with the languages and cultures of Australia’s First Peoples.

Read more: Robots likely to be used in classrooms as learning tools, not teachers

The educators in this school recognised the importance of coding and robotics for their students’ future and the far-reaching opportunities to integrate this technology in ways that build respect and understanding between cultures.

This project was part of a larger three-year study investigating the impact of humanoid robots on students’ learning and engagement.

This article was co-authored with Monica Williams, Educational Consultant at the Association of Independent Schools of South Australia.

Authors: Therese Keane, Associate Professor, Deputy Chair Department of Education, Swinburne University of Technology

Read more http://theconversation.com/how-a-robot-called-pink-helped-school-children-bring-an-aboriginal-language-back-to-life-119810

INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

The Conversation

Politics

Closing the Gap Statement to Parliament

Mr Speaker, when we meet in this place, we are on Ngunnawal country. I give my thanks and pay my respects to our Ngunnawal elders, past, present and importantly emerging for our future. I honour...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Alan Jones

ALAN JONES: Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Alan.    JONES: I was just thinking last night when we're going to talk to you today, you must feel as though you've ...

News Company - avatar News Company

Prime Minister Bridget McKenzie press conference

PRIME MINISTER: Good afternoon everybody. The good news is that the Qantas flight is on its way to Wuhan and I want to thank everybody for their cooperation, particularly the Chinese Government as...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Top 5 Green Marketing Ideas for Your Eco-Friendly Small Business

According to studies, about 33 percent of consumers prefer buying from brands that care about their impact on the environment. This is good news for anyone running an eco-friendly business. It’s a...

Diana Smith - avatar Diana Smith

Choosing the Right Coworking Space For Your Business

As the capital of Victoria in Australia, Melbourne is inhabited by millions of people and is known as one of the most liveable cities in the world. The latter is due to the city’s diverse community...

Sarah Williams - avatar Sarah Williams

What Should You Expect from A Carpentry Apprenticeship?

Those wanting to pursue a career in woodwork, whether it be to make furniture, construct buildings or repair existing wooden structures, will have to first commence a carpentry apprenticeship. This ...

News Company - avatar News Company

Travel

Travelling With Pets? Here Is What You Should Know

Only a pet parent can understand the dilemma one experiences while planning a vacation. Do you leave your pets at home?  Will you get a pet sitter or someone to take care of them while you are away?...

News Company - avatar News Company

How to Be a Smart Frugal Traveller

You are looking through Instagram, watching story after story of your followers overseas at a beach in Santorini, walking through the piazza in Italy, and eating a baguette in front of the Eiffel ...

News Company - avatar News Company

HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR GRADUATION TRIP

Graduation is the stage of life when a student receives the rewards of hard work of years. It must have taken sleepless nights and tiring days to achieve the task. Now, as you have received your cov...

News Company - avatar News Company

ShowPo