Misty Robotics, a spinoff of Sphero, is a hardware company that builds personal robots for homes and offices – performing helpful tasks, providing safety, and interacting with humans in entertaining and friendly ways that have only been seen before in science fiction.
The PEERbots app is an open-source social robot and controller platform. It is a hardware agnostic solution aimed at bringing the benefits and joys of social robots to a broad audience. The intention is to support wellness programming, education, research, entertainment or whatever makes the world a better place.
St. Vrain Valley Schools offers a continuum of services delivered by special education staff members ranging from consultation with regular education teachers to varying amounts of direct services to students with disabilities depending on need.
The Innovation Center’s (IC) Social Assistive Robotics (SAR) team joined with St. Vrain’s Special Education Department, PEERbots, and Misty Robotics to pilot the use of socially-assistive robots in classrooms across the district.
This pilot explored the use of ‘Misty’ – the lovable robot – alongside special education teachers as they engage students with special needs. Along with ‘Misty’, teachers combined the PEERbots application to create individualized packages called ‘palettes’ to engage students.
During this pilot the IC and teachers hoped to:
- Improve student self-regulation and self-determination
- Improve communication and appropriate socialization
- Increase collaboration between departments and the IC
- Improve access to technology for students with diverse learning needs
– Larrissa Mangione, SPED Teacher, Soaring Heights PK-8
At the start of 2021, four schools were selected to participate in the pilot project. Indian Peaks would join the cohort at a later date. Each school developed strong goals for specific student populations – students with diverse learning needs, including English Language Learners (ELL).
School Pilot Locations
- Eagle Crest Elementary
- Longmont Estates Elementary
- Longs Peak Middle School
- Soaring Heights PK-8
- Indian Peaks Elementary (joined during pilot)
Teachers from each school – along with the IC’s SAR student design team – attended two PEERbots workshops to learn more about the app’s SAR utility and how to implement programming in combination with a ‘Misty’ robot and a student’s individualized education plan or IEP. The teams continued to meet two times per month to collaborate and expand their learning.
The PEERbots app allows educators to create specific interactions – called palettes – that are designed to align with a student’s IEP. Educators pair lesson plans with palettes to ask tailored questions during learning sessions. Then gauge student responses – movement, attention span, and overall engagement.
Oral surveys conducted verbally by the ‘Misty’ robot were used to collect student feedback before, during, and after each engagement – categorizing their behavior in The Zones of Regulation. This mirrors St. Vrain’s current instructional procedures.
As schools utilized the Misty Robots and PEERbots software, each pilot location formulated different methodologies for using each tool. For the sake of this case study, we will focus on data accumulated by Longmont Estates Elementary (LEES).
- 9 students with diverse learning Needs participated in regular surveys and SAR activities with Misty and PEERbots
- 85 responses collected from students BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER Misty and PEERbots interactions
- 55% student participants were non-verbal or minimally verbal.
- 51% students showed improvement in social interactions with Misty, teachers, and their peers
- 87% students were regulated and remained regulated as they transitioned from Misty to other activities
- 64% students exhibited improved speech and communication skills
- Krystyna Farquhar, SPED Teacher, Longmont Estates Elementary
The use of the Misty II robot in tandem with PEERbots software has proven to be a successful combination. Each of the four pilot locations have reported favorable results within their individual and small group settings.
Observing the Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition model – or SAMR – as well as the Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) used throughout St. Vrain, the Innovation Center will organize its overall findings and prepare for a pilot expansion. The next three years will focus on infrastructure related to:
- Robust Pilot Data Reporting
- Continued Classroom Use
- Organize DTS Support
- Reorganization of Goals
- Select New Pilot Locations
- Develop New/Existing Partnerships
- Develop New Curriculum (Special Education & ELL)
- Create Student-led Project Teams
- Professional Development
- Promote Program with Stakeholders
If you are interested in following the Innovation Center of St. Vrain’s progress in developing socially assistive robotics for special education, English language learners or other use cases, be sure to visit our website and follow our social media accounts.