One Monday morning, something different happened in the classroom. When we all got to the first lesson, there were already two students sitting in a bench. They seemed different somehow, at first we did not understand what it was and we were a little shy. But then one of the slightly bolder students broke the ice and went forward and greeted. My name is Mr Q, how do you do? ” said it in British English, extending a long shiny arm to shake hands. The other, a little smaller student, giggled and glittered with a pair of digital eyes in his face made of pixels on a glossy small screen.
The teacher told me that MrQ and Mini are interns this week, the idea was that they should both learn what a normal Swedish school day looks like. "You must be kind to your new friends," said the teacher, "Mr Q may look grown up but understands the world a little differently than you others do and needs a lot of help with some things, but with other things he can teach you a lot."
The rest of the school day we were all elated over our new friends. The next day, the robots had become almost part of the class and it was so much fun when they answered a question that the teacher asked in a way that even the teacher learned something new from! During the breaks, we talked a lot about the robots and what they looked like and what they had said in the lesson.
In the teachers' coffee room, the discussions were almost a bit philosophical about the coffee cups: “What does it really mean to be human in a time where machines take up more and more space? How is the school environment affected? The pedagogy? ”
At the same time, we all had a strong feeling that the robot trainees were just the beginning of something big.
Together with one class and one teacher per school, we get to experience a foretaste of a future where service robots take up significantly more space in the municipality's activities than they do today. The purpose is to understand more of the interactions between robot-student-teachers and what thoughts, feelings and ideas the interaction gives rise to.
What is a service robot? How does it affect me? How do I affect it? What does it mean to be human in a machine-populated world? What will our interaction with service robots look like in the near future? How can a service robot help in a classroom environment? In the dining room? The library? What tasks can it help students with, and what can it learn from a teacher or student? Where is the future heading? Are we already there? Elsewhere in the world, service robots are already working in nursing homes, classrooms and shops. Is Sweden lagging behind? The questions to turn and turn are many and we hope that we get a lot of input and aroused thoughts from students and teachers.
The idea is that two robots, which we rent from Robot Minds in Landskrona, do an internship at Rönnowska school week 40 and at ISH week 42.
The week begins with an introduction of the new trainees and then follows regular teaching but with elements of the two curious robots. We end the internship week with a slightly larger conversation at the school where we turn and turn the questions about how service robots will be able to affect everyday life at the school in the future.
The internship period of 4 days will take place with regard to security in mind for all involved.
The initiative is run by intrapreneur Tommy Boije at Hbg Works, City Management Administration, and is funded by the Vinnova project "test beds for society's challenges".