Designing a Learning Robot to Encourage Collaboration Between Children

Wouter Kaag*, Mariët Theune, Theo Huibers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review

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Collaboration is an important skill for children to learn. In this paper we present a small-scale study exploring how technology can be used to elicit collaboration between children. We developed a prototype of a tablet-based robot (‘surfacebot’) that tried to perform a specific task, while children acted as tutors by giving feedback on the surfacebot’s actions. The surfacebot used the feedback to improve its actions by means of reinforcement learning. A pilot study with an early prototype showed that children were engaged and provided consistent feedback to the surfacebot, but showed little collaboration. Instead they made individual decisions and took turns in providing feedback. Based on these observations we made several changes to the prototype that were meant to stimulate collaboration between the children. In our main study with the revised prototype, we measured collaboration using an annotation scheme based on a collaborative problem solving framework. The results suggest that the revisions of the prototype indeed led to more extensive collaborative behavior, with 4 of the 9 participating pairs of children establishing a division of roles that necessitated perspective taking and mutual exchange of information.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDesign, Learning, and Innovation
Subtitle of host publication5th EAI International Conference, DLI 2020, Proceedings
EditorsEva Irene Brooks, Anthony Brooks, Cristina Sylla, Anders Kalsgaard Møller
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherSpringer Science + Business Media
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-78448-5
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-78447-8
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2021
Event5th EAI International Conference on Design, Leaning and Innovation, DLI 2020 - Virtual, Online
Duration: 10 Dec 202011 Dec 2020
Conference number: 5

Publication series

NameLecture Notes of the Institute for Computer Sciences, Social-Informatics and Telecommunications Engineering, LNICST
ISSN (Print)1867-8211
ISSN (Electronic)1867-822X


Conference5th EAI International Conference on Design, Leaning and Innovation, DLI 2020
Abbreviated titleDLI 2020
CityVirtual, Online


  • Collaboration
  • Learning robot
  • Primary school children


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