Keynote speakers

Agnieszka Wykowska (Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia)

"Bridging cognitive neuroscience with social robotics to design human-robot interaction protocols for the benefit of children" 

As robots are believed to soon populate human environments, they have received enthusiastic support in the scientific community – from traditional robotics, to research on human-robot interaction. In my lab, we examine human-robot interaction with the methods of cognitive neuroscience and experimental psychology.  Based on the lessons learned from our studies with adults, we have developed several experimental protocols for addressing child-robot interaction. More specifically, we examine how various neurocognitive mechanisms, such as cognitive control, joint attention or perspective taking, are evoked in children interacting with a humanoid robot. Of particular focus in our lab is the theme of developing robot-assisted training protocols for neurodevelopmental disorders. In my talk I will present an overview of our approach in human-robot interaction research and subsequently, I will focus on the results from the robot-assisted training for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

Dirk Ifenthaler (Curtin University and University of Mannheim)

"Learner-Robotic-Alliances: Reflections on Collaborative Problem Solving"

Problems vary in terms of their structure and emerge in situ. The ability to formulate a problem and make right decisions on the spot is challenging, particularly in urgent, critical, and complex situations. To help humans make the right decision, over the years technological solutions and learning analytics systems have been designed to assess, aid, and support the problem-solving process. Recent developments in artificial intelligence (AI) have the potential to further revolutionise the integration of human and artificial intelligence and impact human and machine collaboration during team-based problem solving. This contribution will outline a theory-based architecture on such human-machine.-alliances as well as critically reflect the affordance for future research and pedagogical practice.

Marina Umaschi Bers (Boston College)

"Playgrounds vs. Playpens: Coding, Computational Thinking and Robotics in Early Childhood"

In this talk, Dr. Bers will present an overview of her interdisciplinary DevTech research program by using the metaphor of playgrounds vs. playpens to understand the role of technology in children’s lives. Playgrounds are designed to promote exploration, discovery, and the development of motor and social skills. In contrast, playpens, corral children into a safe, confined space. Although they are mostly risk-free, there is little imaginative play and problem-solving. This presentation will use the playpen/playground metaphor to explore the role of coding, robotics, and computational thinking for young children.  Dr. Bers will provide examples of work with young children and teachers all over the world, involving the two environments she created: the free Scratch Jr programming language and the KIBO robotic kit. The talk will cover ideas from her recent book “Beyond Coding: How Children Learn Human Values through Programming” in which she argues that coding should be taught not only as a technical skill but as a new literacy — a new way for children to express themselves and engage with the world and others.  Furthermore, Dr. Bers will discuss a pedagogical roadmap that encompasses the cultivation of character along with technical knowledge and skills.