AskNAO for the Special Ed Classroom

NAO on December 14 2015


The NAO Robot is one of our most regular topics of discussion here at Teq, and with good reason. As an educational tool, it brings an entire new level of application and engagement when it comes to teaching students about programming and robotics. However, Aldebaran’s goals for their most famous product stretch farther than just programming—their goal is to have robots be able to assist human beings in all aspects of their lives. This is never clearer than with the AskNAO platform—a tool created by Aldebaran for the NAO robot especially for special education classrooms.

The platform is simple in structure—once logged in, teachers can create individual ‘child’ profiles for students who will be using the platform regularly. This platform can be used as a log of the student’s particular strengths, needs, and what approaches work or don’t work in their development. As a notes space, it’s a good supplement to help teachers create programs that will help them in the ways they need helping.


The platform also has a second tab where teachers create ‘playlists’ for the robots. These playlists consist of pre-made programs of two types—Educational programs and Rewards. Educational programs will typically follow a common pattern: The robot will ask a question, listen for a response from the student, then provide feedback based on their answer (affirmation for a correct answer, encouragement and a hint for an incorrect one). Reward programs are simpler, usually consisting of a fun story the student can listen to, or a dance the student can join the robot in performing.
Teachers can mix these two types of programs in a continuous list that the robot will follow as a kind of educational ‘plan’.  The playlists are not stored on the robot, and don’t need to be—any robot connected to the platform can use these playlists wirelessly, and without the time it might take to upload them. Once a playlist is played, using them for a student is a simple matter—just select the student, connect the robot, and play the list!asknao-interface-280

Guess Emotions is one example of a program commonly found in the AskNAO playform, designed to help students learn to recognize emotional cues in themselves and in others.

The platform keeps track of a number of different statistics, including how many times a given student has successfully gone through a given playlist, and their progress with each individual program within a list. Teachers also have the ability to create and deliver quizzes on a number of topics through the NAO robot using the Quiz Me! program, which can be helpful in making sure students are being assessed on the skills they are learning with NAO.

asknao2This system was originally created specifically with autistic students in mind–as a matter of fact, the ‘Ask’ in AskNAO stands for “Autism Solution for Kids”. Because the robot is a simplified (I like to use the word ‘cute‘) version of a human face, students on the autistic spectrum struggle less to connect with and focus on it than they might with a human teacher or other children. Once it has their attention, NAO can then use their playlists help train these students to recognize common social cues, develop their ability to manage their own emotions, improve their attention span and pattern recognition skill, and any number of other life skills–and in some cases, even math and English content!

However, that isn’t to say that the platform can ONLY be used by autistic students–special education programs of any description can find benefit in using the NAO robot to connect to their students in a new, non-threatening way.
This is something that any school with a NAO robot should definitely consider adding to their school’s resources. If you’re a Special Education teacher or KNOW a Special Education teacher, check out the info Aldebaran provides on the AskNAO solution here. With a natural way of engaging struggling students and a surprisingly deep understanding of the skills they need to develop, it’s a great supplement to any curriculum catered to students who need a little extra care.