NAO, a promising humanoid robot tested in Quebec schools

The NAO robot is tested with students with an autism spectrum disorder, in special education, as well as for learning programming.

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World premiere at 5e IPad and digital education summit, held on May 18 and 19, 2017 in Montreal, a scientific conference was given by a humanoid robot, NAO.

The NAO lecture was accompanied by slides that he seemed to scroll through himself in addition to his talk. He even answered questions with a semblance of intelligence and humor. A pleasant show to present the work of the Canada Research Chair in Technologies in Education team on the use of this humanoid robot in education.

NAO, programmable humanoid robot, is developed by the company SoftBank Robotics (formerly Aldebaran Robotics), a start-up Frenchwoman from Paris. The Canada Research Chair in Information and Communication Technologies in Education has acquired three of these robots, because one is not enough for a class of twenty students.


NAO and students with the autism spectrum

The students of Marie-Christine Audet, a teacher at the Nouvelle-Cadie primary school, in Saint-Gervais in the Bellechasse region, have received two visits from NAO after the latter has maintained a personalized correspondence with them. In conclusion of this first exploratory activity, the postdoctoral fellow Julien bugmann and the educational advisor in special education at the CS de la Côte-du-Sud Emmanuelle Frenette believe that the use of a robot like NAO could have "an influence on the development of cognitive, conceptual, linguistic and social skills" in autistic children.

Students program NAO

The 10 levels of NAO programming, as explained in the teaching guide developed by the research team at the University of Montreal.

At Paul-Jarry Elementary School in Lachine, the most disadvantaged in the Marguerite-Bourgeoys School Board, students learned step by step to program NAO. Through their intervention, the latter learned, among other things, to kick a ball. This is a world first that has demonstrated its beneficial effects in the classroom. Previously, only computer engineers programmed this robot.

To motivate the students, the researchers developed 35 levels of programming. Past research has made it possible to observe the attraction among students of moving from one level of expertise to another in video games. He ordered sets of colored bracelets corresponding to the various levels to be achieved from Chinese suppliers. Students don these bracelets when they have completed the requirements for a programming level.

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In summary, particularly thanks to its social aspect, NAO is advantageously used with students with an autism spectrum disorder and in special education, as well as for learning programming by all elementary and secondary students. .

During the 5e IPad and digital education summit, NAO also had its own space at the exhibitors' fair!

The Canada Research Chair in Information and Communication Technologies in Education has applied for a grant to acquire more copies of NAO, which cost 6000 $ each. The goal is to develop the autonomy of schools so that they can use NAO to teach programming to their students without the intervention of the Chair, which is currently the driving force behind the educational applications of this new tool.

See NAO in action at CFER de Bellechasse:


To find out more about the educational use of NAO

Karsenti, T., Bugmann, J. and Parent, S. (2017). The robot NAO in education. Student guide for the level NAO PRO. Montreal: available for download.

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About the Author

Ninon Louise Lepage
Ninon Louise Lepage
Ninon Louise LePage is a pedagogue and museologist who recently came out of premature retirement to be reborn as an educational designation. She has taught at the Université du Québec à Montréal and the Université de Sherbrooke in science education, in addition to working at the Canadian Heritage Information Network as a museology consultant. She also writes for our French friends at Ludomag. She also invites all interested to contact her so that she can talk about you, your students, your school and your particular experiences in digital and computer education.

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