Erin Walker (pictured), associate professor in the School of Computing and Information (SCI) and research scientist in the Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC), has been named principal investigator for a $900,000 National Science Foundation grant to study the use of robots in middle school math classrooms. Co-principal investigators on the grant are Diane Litman, professor of computer science and senior scientist in the LRDC; Timothy Nokes-Malach, associate professor of psychology in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and research scientist in the LRDC; and Adriana Kovashka, assistant professor in SCI.
Walker and colleagues will investigate the use of robots to support collaborative learning. When students work together with an intelligent tutoring system such as a robot, they are able to learn more and explain their reasoning while also building on each other’s ideas. Walker and colleagues will investigate if the robot’s gaze or gestures, combined with dialogue, can promote middle school students' collaborative interactions and lead to more math learning. The main goal of the project is to gain a better understanding of how robots can be integrated effectively in learning environments.
Walker has also recently received a Google AI 2020 Award for Inclusion Research with colleague Leshell Hatley, of Coppin State University in Baltimore. In this work, Walker and Hatley are collaborating on a project to develop a dialogue system for a culturally responsive robot.