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Breakdowns in children's interactions with a robotic tutor: A longitudinal study

Journal article
Authors Sofia Serholt
Published in Computers in Human Behavior
Volume 81
Pages 250-264
ISSN 0747-5632
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Applied Information Technology (GU)
Pages 250-264
Language en
Keywords Child–robot interaction; Education; Robotic tutor; Breakdowns; Interaction analysis; Thematic analysis
Subject categories Human Computer Interaction, Educational Sciences


In recent years, there has been a growing research interest towards exploring the benefit of Child–Robot Interaction for educational purposes through the use of social robotics. Despite the label, such robots are typically only social within scripted activities. The current study takes a critical look at the case of a robotic tutor which was implemented in an elementary school for 3.5 months, where children repeatedly took turns interacting with the robot individually as well as in pairs. The aim of the study was to explore what caused breakdowns in children's interactions with the robotic tutor. In this qualitative study, over 14 h of video recordings of children's interaction sessions were analyzed in-depth through interaction analysis and thematic analysis. The results comprise four themes to explain why children's interactions with the robotic tutor break down: (1) the robot's inability to evoke initial engagement and identify misunderstandings, (2) confusing scaffolding, (3) lack of consistency and fairness, and finally, (4) controller problems. The implications of these breakdowns for the educational use of robots are discussed, and it is concluded that several challenges need to be rigorously addressed in order for robotic tutors to be able to feature in education.

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