Tag: robots

Cyberlearning workshop to host sharing of research, expertise in child/robot collaborative system

Yanghee Kim

Yanghee Kim

When Yanghee Kim visited the College of Education last August, the new Morgridge Chair eagerly promoted her January 2018 workshop funded by the National Science Foundation.

It begins Thursday.

The Center for Innovative Research in Cyberlearning (CIRCL) Workshop on Robots, Young Children and Alternative Input Methods will take place in the Capitol Room of the Holmes Student Center.

Researchers from learning sciences, computer sciences, engineering and social sciences will gather for two days of inquiry “into the development of a socio-technical collaborative system of embodied, humanoid robots and young children in ways that promote children’s intellectual, affective and social development.”

Day One will feature sessions that present current multidisciplinary research and that distinguish challenges and research issues in interaction design and technology development. Day Two – Friday – will focus on future work, including the identification of opportunities for collaboration and alignment with funding priorities.

Scholars in attendance will discuss sociable, educational robots; cognitive, affective and cultural theories; qualitative research methodology; designing and assessing robot/child behaviors; computational linguistics; speech technology and vision technology.

robotMany questions will guide the conversation.

  • What are the current statuses of research and development efforts in child/robot interaction?
  • What are theoretical perspectives that might guide research on developing child/robot collaborative systems?
  • What are important research issues in engineering child development assisted by a robot?
  • What technologies are available to design child/robot interaction and collect data to assess the efficacy?
  • What are the challenges and opportunities in developing such technologies and research programs?
  • In what way are the research issues aligned with the NSF goal of broadening participation in STEM education and STEM workforce (particularly, the NSF initiative INCLUDES, Human Technology Partnership)?

Presenters from NIU include Kyung Kim, Laura Ruth Johnson and Ying Xie, all of the College of Education’s Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment; and Reva Freedman, of the Department of Computer Sciences.

The workshop is invitation-only; for more information, email ykim@niu.edu.



Project VITALL group explores Consumer Electronics Show

Buddy

Buddy, “the companion robot” developed by BLUE FROG ROBOTICS. Photo by Stacy Kelly.

Stacy Kelly wants a robot.

The associate professor in the NIU College of Education’s Vision Program came to that realization after she and a trio of graduate students in the Project VITALL master’s degree program spent three days at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

“We need to have a robot,” says Kelly, who interacted with the machines and watched their realistic movements.

“People who are blind or visually impaired now often use guide dogs for traveling safely and effectively. How could a robot take the place of a guide dog? Dogs have a life expectancy. Guide dogs have to retire. People wouldn’t have to get a new dog every six or seven years. They could get a four-legged robot,” she says.

“Although the technology is not fully there now, it will be there soon, and we don’t want to wait until it’s there,” she adds. “We went to see the technology for the masses to think about how it could apply to the blind. We want to understand it now and know how it can help with our instruction.”

NIU’s group glimpsed myriad mind-boggling possibilities for robots as assistive technology for people who are blind or visually impaired – all things that the practitioners Kelly prepares through the Department of Special and Early Education must know to best serve their future clients.

She and the students – Julie Hapeman, Lizzy Koster and Lacey Long – will present their findings Feb. 15 at the 2018 Illinois Chapter of the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired Conference.

They also plan to publish an article about their Consumer Electronic Show adventure.

Stacy Kelly

Stacy Kelly

“It was the cutting edge of all cutting edges. It was the edge of the edge of the edge. That’s where we were,” Kelly says. “Everyone there was so entrepreneurial, and it was like having a crystal ball that works in being able to see the future.”

Among the coolest things they experienced: driverless vehicles.

“We had the opportunity to ride around Las Vegas in a self-driving car and other automated transportation – self-driving buses, trolleys, things that no longer require a human to get from one place to another in a timely fashion. That was just off the charts!” Kelly says.

“One of the biggest constraints for people who are blind or visually impaired is figuring out methods of safe and independent travel,” she adds. “Now, someday, they can have a car in their garage or in the parking lot and just go.”

Called “the world’s gathering place for all those who thrive on the business of consumer technologies,” the Consumer Electronics Show “has served as the proving ground for innovators and breakthrough technologies for 50 years – the global stage where next-generation innovations are introduced to the marketplace.”

NIU’s contingent financed its trip with Project VITALL, part of a five-year, $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to launch of a new master’s degree that provides specialized training in assistive technology.

Both students and professor were excited to see how many smart home and voice-activated technologies were powered by Amazon Echo and Google Home.

“Everybody’s linking into the same ecosystem,” Kelly says. “We have Alexa and Google Home in our classrooms already, so it confirmed to me that we’re on the right track.”

From left: Julie Hapeman, Lacey Long, Lizzy Koster and Stacy Kelly

From left: Julie Hapeman, Lacey Long, Lizzy Koster and Stacy Kelly

 

She also realized that NIU, home to the world’s first academic program in assistive technology in the area of blindness and visual impairments, has proven prescient in its long emphasis on tech.

Just talking to the many vendors about how their technologies could have additional applications for those who are blind or visually impairment sparked light bulb moments, she adds. “People were saying, ‘Oh, for the blind! I never thought of that!’ ”

Hapeman, a certified orientation and mobility specialist in the Milwaukee Public Schools, reports that her ride in the self-driving car made “an immediate impact on two of my students.”

Julie Hapeman (center) with students Carlos and Xin Ju.

Julie Hapeman (center) with students Carlos and Xin Ju.

“As I was waiting for my turn, one of my students, a 15-year-old student who is totally blind, sent me a text to ask how I was enjoying the conference,” Hapeman says.

“The time she sent her message was the time I would have seen her for our weekly lesson, and it was serendipitous that her text arrived right after my Lyft ride had been confirmed,” she adds. “I texted her back that I was about to ride in a self-driving car, and her response was, ‘OHMYGOD! I AM SO JEALOUS!!!!’ ”

Hapeman knew she had to call her student from the car, turning the phone over to the engineer on board: “The questions she asked with all of the excitement in her voice were marvelous!”

After texting the news to another student, Hapeman realized the magnitude of those moments.

“For both of these students, the possibility that in their lifetimes they might be able to own and operate a car by themselves seemed within their grasp,” she says. “Helping these students move one step closer to one of their dreams was the greatest moment of the entire CES.”

Lacey Long

Lacey Long

Long, a teacher of students with visual impairments and a certified orientation and mobility specialist in the Morton-Sioux Special Education Unit of North Dakota, calls the Consumer Electronics Show “amazing.”

“There was such a diverse range of technology available. Our group used the opportunity to question how these technologies can be adapted for individuals with visual impairments across the board,” Long says.

“One upcoming product that I thought would be extremely useful was the Casio Mofrel 2.5D printer,” she adds. “Although it is being marketed to design professionals, it has the capabilities to print textures and Braille, which could increase the accessibility my students have to tactile illustrations for improved literacy.”

Lizzy Koster

Lizzy Koster

Koster, who has explored the potential of Google Translate for people with visual impairments, found the Las Vegas experience an informative one.

“The Consumer Electronics Show serves as a barometer for how the tech industry gauges consumer interests and needs and their response to those projections,” Koster says.

“At present, connectivity, be it through social robots or smart home innovations, is at the forefront,” she adds. “What this means for our students and clients with visual impairment is that while select innovators are developing products to better serve their needs, consumer trends are moving toward more reliance on smart devices and automation.”

For teachers, she says, “this indicates that our students and clients will need to be well-versed in basic ‘smart’ technology in order to determine how they can work with it and adapt it as necessary.”

NIU facilitates that readiness in its graduates.

“Our field desperately needs this program,” Kelly says. “All the time and energy we’ve put in for the last several decades is paying off. We’re not at Square One. We’re at Square Million. Every single day, we’re working with the newest technology and we’re bringing it into our classroom.”



New Morgridge Chair visits CoE

Yanghee Kim

Yanghee Kim

As a teacher in South Korea, Yanghee Kim gradually realized that her daily work in the classroom was robbing her of her joy of teaching.

Day in and day out, month after month and year after year, she recited the same information to her students, and her classroom time was so busy she didn’t have time to actually interact with the students in a meaningful way.

“I was lecturing at the kids all of the class hours, and thinking, ‘I could do better than this,’ ” Kim says. “I didn’t know if the students were listening to me or not.”

She turned to computers as a possible solution to this problem, designing software to do some of the recitation of classroom material.

“I have found that using a computer is so humanistic because I was able to talk to my students personally. Now I can walk around and observe,” she says. “I saw that a computer can change our classrooms, and, since that time, I have become a technology advocate.”

Currently an associate professor of Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences at Utah State University, Kim has been named the NIU College of Education’s new LD and Ruth G. Morgridge Endowed Chair in Teacher Education and Preparation. She starts in January.

Founded in 1995, the Morgridge Chair emphasizes innovation and advancement in teacher education, particularly in relation to the integration of technology in classroom practice.

“My responsibilities here at NIU are what I have dreamed about,” Kim says. “My research agenda is important, but I love to promote research collaboration between diverse research interests and to be a catalyst for collaborative education research, which should be, by nature, interdisciplinary.”

Laurie Elish-Piper, dean of the NIU College of Education, heralds Kim’s “innovative, creative forward-thinking” approach.

“We’re thrilled to have Yanghee join us because of her research to understand how cutting-edge technologies can be used to make education equalized and inclusive,” Elish-Piper says.

“The Morgridge Endowed Chair position focuses on moving the field of teacher education forward, and we believe that Yanghee is uniquely positioned to leverage this opportunity to benefit not only NIU but our school district partners,” Elish-Piper adds. “Her work is extremely innovative and interdisciplinary, which will allow her to work collaboratively with students and faculty in the College of Education as well as around campus and with faculty and students at other universities.”

Kim came to the United States in 2000 to pursue graduate studies in instructional technology at Florida State University, where she earned a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and Learning Systems and a M.S. in Instructional Systems Design.

She joined the Utah State faculty in 2004, and in January of the same year, was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation for a project designing avatar-based instructional teaching tools. More recently, she was awarded a 2016 grant titled, “Inclusive Design for Engaging all Learners (IDEAL): Designing Technology for Cultural Brokering.” IDEAL explores another cutting-edge technology: the use of robots as teaching tools.

As principal investigator, that NSF grant comes with her to NIU until its conclusion in 2019. She will tap the NIU faculty to serve as co-principal investigators; she also is planning a related workshop on campus in January.

Her passion for the use of classroom technology is strong.

“These advanced technologies can help us address some needs we human instructors have,” Kim says. “These robots and computers never get tired of repeating information over and over. The robot is social bias-free. The robot can talk in English or in the children’s own language – say, Spanish – and the children know it’s OK for them to not be fluent in another language. It places different groups in equal status.”

Kim presents her work Aug. 22 after the All-College Meeting.

Kim presents her work Aug. 22 after the All-College Meeting.

Children who “pretend to understand” to stop a teacher’s questions do not fool a robot, she says. Meanwhile, she adds, the robots can film facial expressions and record voices to provide teachers with video and audio evidence of how children are reacting to and absorbing the lessons.

Now that she is shifting gears, Kim is eager to work with NIU’s partner school districts and teachers “to identify their needs and to drive research to address their needs.”

She also expects to foster cross-disciplinary research across the NIU campus, and to secure more external funding to support that scholarship, all of which will advance her goal of teaching each new generation.

“Education is about nurturing life. I was born in South Korea, and in Asian countries, they value education a lot,” she says, adding that she plans to build up the educational capacity in Illinois classrooms to nurture a new generation of students.

“In my teen years, I thought to myself, ‘Where do I want to commit my capacity?’ It was nurturing life,” she adds. “I vacillated between doctor and teacher. I decided that education is more about working people’s intellect – working people’s minds – and I thought that might be more important for them.”