Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Authoring Robot-Assisted Instructional Materials for Improving Learning Performance and Motivation in EFL Classrooms

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Authoring Robot-Assisted Instructional Materials for Improving Learning Performance and Motivation in EFL Classrooms

Article excerpt


Anthropomorphized robots are found beneficial when they are implemented in education due to their advantages of executing verbal and nonverbal communication with teachers or students in classrooms (Johnson, 2003). For example, some research studies have used autonomous humanoid robots in English classrooms to play the role of native speakers that are able to carry on conversations with pupils in natural language (Lee et al., 2011; Hyun et al., 2008; Movellan et al., 2009; Park et al., 2011).

Research studies have confirmed that this type of interaction between robots and humans not only improves teaching effectiveness but also learning motivation because students are less anxious and more cheerful (Papert, 1993). Therefore, more and more applications of robotic technology are now trying to develop activities that can be helpful for teaching and learning English as a foreign language (EFL). This current trend of using robotics to assist language instruction is now known as Robot-Assisted Language Learning (RALL) (Han, 2012).

Despite the great benefits of using robots in language teaching and learning, the current application may be limited because of the two major reasons. First, autonomous robots have complex artificial intelligence and are so expensive that normally schools cannot afford them. Moreover, the interaction scenarios between pupils and robots must be pre-programmed by robotics developers, so educators who are not robotics professionals may find it difficult to design or alter the interaction scenarios. Therefore, an alternative to solving the above problems is to buy robots with simple autonomous functions and remote controlled body movements from the supermarkets, or toyshops. These robots are mostly developed in a small size and at a low-cost. Meanwhile, they could be simply controlled by instructors to perform pedagogical missions and teaching materials in the classroom activities. This type of robots is often used as an instructional tool for facilitating learners' engagement and oral interaction. Research has found that interacting with a tangible robot increased more engagement than with a video (Xie, Antle, & Motamedi, 2008). For instance, ROBOSAPIEN, a low-cost remote controlled robot that can be purchased from a toyshop, has been used to be an instructional tool for EFL class at an elementary school (Chang et al., 2010a; Chang et al., 2010b; You et al., 2006). Although there was a breakthrough in terms of reducing the cost of using robots in language teaching and learning, those commercial robots were still not well developed into education because normally instructors had to take much time and effort to interlink robots with instructional materials and classroom activities. In order to expand robot-assisted language teaching, Han (2012) suggested that the system frameworks of RALL combine robot hardware, robot applications and visual instructional contents and help instructors easily design their robot-assisted instruction. Furthermore, the design of the system frameworks should take the language learning goals into account.

In our previous research studies, a RALL system framework has been implemented. The developed framework provides an authoring tool for instructors to script teaching materials that can easily add external multimedia resources as well as to script presentations of anthropomorphized robots. Moreover, a material display system can also be found in the framework. Therefore, the present study is, first, to provide a practical study of creating an EFL course using the framework to design robot-assisted instructional materials. Then, it shows the empirical evidence of the designed instructional materials based on students' learning outcomes. Finally, it presents the impact of students' learning motivation because motivation is a critical element to sustain students' attention and engagement in the learning process.

In our current study, two groups of the fifth-grade elementary students were targeted to make the comparison. …

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