Module 4 – Robotics, which does not have to be difficult

Industry 4.0, according to European observers, is the beginning of a new industrial revolution, the fourth one and the only one identified while ongoing instead of being identified after it happens. And robotics is part of its industrial and professionally solutions.

Robots are more popular than ever. The word robot appears frequently in places and, commonly, in many applications. It is used to refer concepts and devices.

Society has many different reactions to robots. There are two major and different perspectives about this topic: one is the influence of robots in society; the other is how fast robots became part of our personal and professionally life, and how common starts to be seeing them around us.


In this context, the purpose of this module is to provide andragogs with the basics about Robotics in Education (RiE) and give them the insight that robots are much more common and used in our daily life than we can imagine. In education, robotics can have many other applications beyond simple build robots, programming or develop technology knowledge.

This module includes an introduction to the evolution of industry and robotics, explains the advantages of using robotics in adult education, exemplify types of robots used in education, highlights available technologies, and provides a look into future developments in robotics.

By the end of this module, you will learn:

  • about Industry 4.0 and the evolution of robotics,
  • the concepts of Education 4.0, RiE, and its applications in adult education,
  • the developments of robotics in education,
  • the future of robotics in daily life.

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Robotics have been a major trend in the last decade and robots start to have a considerable impact in society due to its use beyond industrial assembly lines.

To learn about robotics, it is important first to understand Industry 4.0 as an ongoing revolution and contextualise the exciting novel aspects of automated technologies and robotics. And for this, will be needed to take a travel back in time to understand the (re)evolution in industry.

Automation systems exist for centuries, in different civilisations, to provide tools for helping man and performing heavy tasks. As an example, the Greek and Roman designed systems with water clocks, where the devices would self-regulate without human intervention.

Every industrial revolution was based in creative and innovative ideas that changed the society, the economy and the political mindset through history – the so called progress.

Source: Mindshift Talent Advisory

Industry 1.0, the first industrial revolution changed the world

“The Industrial Revolution” was considered by many at the end of the 18th century with the start of a new economic era and changing of the social order paradigms.

Machines started to made what was done before by man. Society started to change and demanding for goods that were make faster and cheaper due to steam powered machines. This new machinery power led to new ideas and developments in industry.


Industry 2.0, accelerated the changes

Mass production is the key element in the second industrial revolution, initially powered by electricity and then by oil. In late 19th century, efficient assembly lines were developed transforming quickly raw materials into finished goods.

A fast pace in mass production, the standardisation of processes and a routine workforce grew and thus, the production time was improved, the needs satisfied and new markets created.

In the middle of Industry 2.0, “automation” was a common term related to the manufacturing and production processes, with a part controlled by man and other handled by machinery.


Industry 3.0, the beginning of computers robots and internet

In late 60s, Industry 3.0 was an important lever for the development of electric mechanisation with the power of computers. The purpose of these computers was to put strength in to automation systems allowing skilled workers to programme complex processes in minutes, drastically improving the systems. Before that, it could take hours or days to modify a programme. Across the 80s and 90s, due to consumers’ demand, supply chains took an important role in industrial production processes, increasing the competitiveness.

Than “Internet” became publicly available, in 1991, and changed everything. The internet connected peripherals (including robots) and people around the world, allowing companies to do businesses in a more intelligent and efficient way.

In Industry 3.0, computerised automation is the norm, and not the exception, in industrial processes all over the globe. These processes are still a very important part of the present but Industry 4.0 sets the next frontier.


Industry 4.0, when the world gets smarter

The fourth industrial revolution is the answer for the future smart automation processes, and brings a unique path done with more digitisation, artificial intelligence, analytics and robotics.

Yet, there is an optimistic perspective on our capability in the digital, biological and physical worlds that are converging in positive and transformative ways, regarding the concern on robots transcending humans.

A new era of prosperity can be led with this technological convergence, economically and socially. Continuous development of the existing automation technologies will continue to have a massive impact, e.g. in increasing production, in better transportation systems, in improving automated logistic systems or machinery.

With the recent developments of digitisation, new robotics processes are improving these automation processes, transforming data into automated actions. This is one of the reasons why robots are taking an important role, together with the fact that they are also more flexible and less costly.


Evolution of robotics

Similar to the industry, several other fields started to claim their 4.0 revolution, including robotics. It is important to recall the contribution of robots in industrial automation, but the spotlight in 4.0 starts with the application of networked robots, meaning a change of paradigm:

  • robotics 0.0: simple mechatronic structures without any degree of autonomy, considered “pre-historical” robots, such as the Egyptian water clock,
  • robotics 1.0: refers to two major control paradigms in robotics, pre-programed and tele-operated systems, that led to wide adaptation as happened in assembly lines,
  • robotics 2.0: sensor-driven robotics, which powers collaborative robots, like most service robots, requiring a close human–robot interaction,
  • robotics 3.0: a higher degree of autonomy due to system’s capabilities is what differentiates from the above. Robots can now perform complex behaviours and safety tasks when close to humans – known as “human-centred robotics” -, as self-driving car and surgical robots,
  • robotics 4.0: is the upcoming leap in the technology integration, combining synergies of all previous developments and relying on the high level automation of cognitive knowledge.


Industrial robots versus non-industrial robots

Technological advancements are enabling robotics to have a growing impact in many industries and in our daily lives. The two key segments of robotics include:

  • industrial robotics and automation,
  • non-industrial robotics: known as service robotics that are used outside industry, in areas such as education, hospitality or healthcare.

The main difference between these two types of robotics is how and where they are applied. Service robots can have commercial uses since they are not exclusive in-house applications. These types of robots perform useful tasks for humans in non-industrial scenarios, which does not exclude robots in settings such as healthcare and logistics, since robots can perform tasks in a variety of environments.

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Education 4.0

Since 2000, technology began to have an important role in the education process. Educators and learners started to use technology in the most basic ways – was the time of Education 2.0.

As technology evolved and more internet users appeared, Education 3.0 naturally happened.  Learners had the option to learn virtually in their own pace, using different platforms, and easily connecting with educational providers, educators and other learners.

Education shifts its approach from face-to-face learning to distance and networked learning, having the learners their own device and online access to a variety of sources and information. This boosted the development of a personalised way of learning where the learner’s autonomy and independence is encouraged.

However, a new phase is just starting – the Education 4.0.

Education 4.0 aligns itself with the emerging fourth industrial revolution and embedding its developments (e.g. smart technology, robotics, artificial intelligence) in the learning process. A few trends in this learning evolution are listed below:

  • accelerate remote learning: education 4.0 enables anytime and anywhere learning
  • personalised learning: education 4.0 promotes self-paced learning
  • choice of education tools: education 4.0 is technology/devices-based and fosters BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)
  • project-based learning: 0 learners need to quickly adapt to project-based learning and to new learning/working styles, once the freelance economy continues to grow,
  • field-specific experience: educational curricula must accommodate more competences related with 4.0 knowledge and interaction with technology in specific areas, so learners can be better prepared for the digitalisation and demands of labour market,

Source: adapted from

Robotics in Education (RiE)

“Educational robotics” or “Robotics in Education” (RiE) are terms widely used to describe the educational use of robotics and electronic components as a learning tool. RiE brings opportunities to integrate robots not only STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education, but also into other learning areas such as literacy, social studies or arts, while giving learners also the opportunity to develop their soft skills, including:

  • team work: along the learning process, learners understand that they obtain better results if they work together,
  • discipline and compromise: by committing to the project and their peers, and having patience and persistence, learners realise that can succeed
  • experimentation and problem-solving: by trying, they discover and have the evidence if something works or not, learning also that making mistakes and solving them makes part of the process,
  • self-esteem and resilience: acknowledge failure is necessary to overcome the fear to fail again and be confidence to try once again,
  • do-it-yourself (DIY) empowerment: learners’ autonomy is gained by creating their own robots and finding solutions by themselves, while they learn and have fun,
  • creativity and innovation: learning from their peers, and look for innovative solutions beyond the first possibility is a consequence when learners understand that usually there is more than one way to do something well.



On the other hand, RiE also fosters the following technical skills:

  • programming language: first steps in programming are done and learners understand that it must have an order, structure and method,
  • computational thinking: designing and creating robots teach learners how to divide a big problem into small parts, deal with abstract concepts and create tailored solutions,
  • STEM mindset: they learn how to search, obtain and handle information, at the same time they can practice attitudes such as curiosity, amazement, analysis and investigation,
  • technology culture: is boosted as learners are accessing internet and multimedia content, and diving into robotics world.

Not just teaching robotics but teaching through robotics

The use of robots is quite recent in the field of education, but some experts predict that robots will be used regularly in teaching and learning environments around the globe.



According to educational expert Sir Anthony Seldon, within the next 10 years teaching robots will be able to read learners’ facial expressions, and maybe even their brains, and thus analyse and adapt automatically the learning process. In the future, robots will be part of learners’ educational path. This will allow robots to get knowing their learners very well, and provide learners with better inspiration, motivation, and personalised learning. Sir Anthony also believes that within the next decade, as robots continue to become more effective at teaching, educators’ roles will become less as educators and more as overseers or mentors.

As technology will make anything possible in the years to come, it is important that we continue to analyse the long-term effects of its use. There is the need to use every new technology responsibly, following its ethical guidelines and standards, without never forget that robots are created to serve humans, and not the other way around.

In the field of adult education, it can be considered that there are two main approaches on RiE:

  1. teaching robotics as a subject,
  2. using robotics in the learning environment.

In the frame of 4.0 ANDCOM, our focus is the use of robotics and its everyday practical side in the learning environment as an opportunity to stimulate soft and/or technical skills as those listed above. In this frame, robotics can be used as a tool to enhance learners’ experience, stimulating hands-on and mind-on learning and, at the same time, providing a fun and exciting interdisciplinary learning environment.

The effective use of robotics requires that every andragog is confident in embedding robotics in their teaching practices. For this can happen, it is necessary to understand how to “handle the complexity” inherent to robotics and develop specific know-how. To ensure that the use of robotics elements are perceived as natural in adult education, it is also needed to include robotics-related topics in existing training curricula, and have available suitable tools with user friendly interfaces and abstractions.

Pedagogical theories underpinning RiE




Three theories are the most prevalent within the domain of educational robotics:

  • Papert’s constructionism: initially, within the field of robots in education, there was a gradual shift from Piaget’s theory of constructivism to the modern educational method of Papert. While the theory of constructivism states that learnt knowledge is shaped by what the learners know and experience, Papert adds to this by introducing the notion of constructionism, which states that learning occurs when a learner constructs a physical artefact and reflects on his/her problem solving experience based on the motivation to build the artefact – constructionism theory is by far the most adopted in robotics curricula, which are hands-on and based on problem solving, encouraging learners to think and be creative,
  • principles of active learning and learning-by-doing: advocate a hands-on approach to increase the motivation of learners – such paradigms are well suited to the RiE because by their very nature most robots are tangible and require to be physically manipulated as part of the learning activity, and interacting with tools and artefacts also is connected with concept of the extended mind,
  • Vygotsky’s social constructivism: which generally applies to most peer or tutor-based methodologies of robotics education – this theory gave rise to the principle of scaffolding, i.e., breaking up of complex tasks into smaller tasks, a common approach in RiE.

Using robotics to prepare adult learners for the future employment

In a technology-driven world it is necessary, more than ever, to continue preparing individuals for the constant changing future. It has been acknowledged by many governments the importance of robotics in education and various programmes and initiatives have been created to support the educational systems. When we raise awareness about robotics in adult education, a whole new world of opportunities is opened.


Industry 4.0 will create both winners and losers. Some workers will lose their jobs. A large share of workers will find their work changed, sometimes dramatically, and others will discover that their skills are outdated. The cost of this adjustment will not be distributed equally across countries, communities, occupations, or skills levels. The transition will be especially painful for those least educated. Job opportunities will continue to exist, and incomes will rise for those at the top, but wages for those at the bottom will suffer, as many occupations are automated and the demand for lower-skilled routine labour gradually decreases.

Increasing employability is a willed consequence of RiE. The better-prepared, trained, aware and motivated individual is the one that might have the chance of getting a job. Andragogs might have a very important and specific role in training and identifying the potential and future professionals in the robotics field. And for that, a clear message is needed to raise awareness about this new reality and labour market demands, and at the same time keeping the adult learners engaged and assuring that they complete the learning path are equipped with future proof skills.

Besides, RiE goes far beyond the obvious lessons surrounding building, programming and coding. Indeed, it offers an effective way to teach literacy competency and other soft skills, as those already listed above. Nowadays, literacy is much more than read, write and communicate with others in our world technology-based. Even at a communication level, where we are always connected digitally, in constant up-to-date, ready and performing tasks remotely, might not be an easy task to incorporate robotics in adult learning.

But, RiE is also an engaging subject per se, and transversal to our daily lives – whenever we look around, we can easily realise that robotics is part of almost every routine tasks, at home and in the workplace.


Indeed, robots continue to gain pace and bring many benefits to workers – whose jobs are less dangerous and more rewarding as a result – and to all of us, in our daily lives, as we benefit from non-industrial robots in different areas. Equipped with the right skills, an increasing number of today and tomorrow’s workforce can ensure that we get the benefits of robotics.

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Will robots replace the work done by humans within the next 10 years? – this is a million-dollar question, and a subject of serious debate among robotics’ community.

And, when thinking in education, another million-dollar question arises – Could robots replace educators?

The use of robots is increasing in education for a number of subjects across STEM and language learning. The subject and the age group of learners usually decide the type of robot choice. Smaller robots or toolkits are particularly used to teach robotics or computer science. Human-like shape of humanoids makes them easier to interact with, and for this reason is often used for language learning.

Robots as learning tools, not educators

Humanoid robots are not being used autonomously in classrooms due technological limitations such as inaccurate speech or emotion recognition. The intention of most researchers in robotics is not to replace educators by these robots. The design goals of most robots are to perform as an aid in the classroom and to enhance the added value that they can bring as an engaging educational tool.


We need to be able to provide appropriate interfacing mechanisms (software, hardware or even mobile apps), in order to facilitate the integration of robots in the classroom. This allows the human educators to use and control the robot with minimal training.

Robot builder

Since the beginning of this century, LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education has led the way in STEM education, inspiring users to engage in fun hands-on learning. The combination of LEGO® building systems with the, LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education EV3 technology is now offering even more ways to learn about robotics and teach the principles of programming, physical science and mathematics.

The goal here is not advertising the LEGO® toolset as the only way to bring the practical side of robotics into the classroom, but use LEGO® as a model to illustrate how robotics can foster learners’ creativity and innovation through hands-on learning, by providing learners with opportunities to practice problem solving through coding. Summing up, it is about discovery and improvisation, collaboration and creativity, motivation and self-direction. And it is about playful learning experiences with real-world relevance.


Smart toy robots

There are different types of devices and tools available for learning robotics and programming. Some use mobile phones apps, where users can control the toy using the app.

Romo is a small robot that uses a smartphone for its brain. By using another mobile device and a multi-platform app, users can move it around, make it show animated facial expressions, dance or turn it into a spybot. Romo is simple and very different from the typical image of the personal robot.



Antbo is an insect-shaped robot designed to help learning robotics and programming. It has a scanning system that enables the robot perceives and explores its environment, using its neural system to process and react to stimuli. Antbo has an accelerometer and distance sensors.


Luka is a children’s reading robot designed to encourage them to start reading. By putting an open page of an illustrated children’s book in front of Luka, the robot recognises the story from its cloud-based library and reads it out loud using AI.


Personal robots

In a domestic environment, personal robots can play different roles. Domestic robots are programmed to perform tasks that make daily life easier. For educational purpose, there are various models used for language learning or other subjects, helping in the learning process of children and adult learners.


temi is a personal robot that provides insights into the role of robot-driven interactive learning. Among its different functions, language learning is an option.


BUDDY is advertised as an “emotional companion robot”. Alongside surveillance, providing company, taking and making calls and other actions that are also performed by temi, BUDDY is also able to provide edutainment, including interactive games, mathematics and memory exercises, and programming.

Educators robots

A humanoid robot, due its physical shape increases engagement and has the ability to provide real-time feedback. This leads to a personal connection with the learner, helping to solve issues related to shyness, reluctance, confidence and frustration that may arise when dealing with a human educator. For example, a robot will never get tired no matter how many mistakes are made.

Humanoids can perform as teaching assistants, or be the actual educator when, for example, they are providing reinforcement in teaching a particular subject or supporting learners. In some cases, they become a sort of avatar for the learners who choose for a distant learning system, representing an important role and making possible learners to interact remotely with their peers.

NAO and Pepper are examples of humanoids being widely used in classrooms in all over the world, turning to be perfect assistants for educators. They allow to customise teaching activities, for individual learning or small groups of learners, due to their visual and intuitive interface that makes the content creation process easier. Both robots can introduce new and attractive didactic topics and apply project-based learning approaches.

Currently, these robots are being used to implement inclusive practices more effectively and to promote education with learners with some disabilities such as autism, emotional and behavioural disorders. The reason is because Pepper and NAO can easily create an empathetic link, inspire and lead learners to do physical and intellectual exercises, as well develop social and emotional skills.


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Most robots are not humanoids and, most likely, won’t be in the next decade. Since robots are designed for performing a range of behaviours and tasks in different environments, their shapes and physical abilities necessarily will reflect its purpose. Some exception might be considered like robots that provide medical or other healthcare support for humans, or even some robots that are meant to establish a more “humanised” relationship.

Self-learning robots

A central aspect of the rise of automation and AI in recent years has been the growing proficiency by which robots are capable of learning from their experiences. The highly developed systems will be able to teach the robots, themselves, how to carry out their tasks in the future. Until now, robots required complicated programming, but with these technological advancements robots will be more autonomous and able to adapt to changing surroundings and optimise themselves.

iCub is designed as an open source platform for research in robotics, AI and cognitive science, in a child-size humanoid robot capable of crawling, grasping objects and interact with people.


Environment-aware robots

It is true to say that robots have a better eyesight than humans do. The recent advances in mobile technology, cognitive computing, machine vision, touch and collision avoidance technology are making possible robots to be aware of their surroundings and perform multiple types of tasks in a very safe way and in a close distance from human workers.

For example, a self-driving car can be considered an environment-aware robot, since operates autonomously while recognising its surroundings. Also drones are being used for a wide diversity of purposes including deliveries, surveying, 3D map creation, security, agriculture, inspections, rescue, investigations and for entertainment purposes.

Environment-aware robots are also widely used in commercial facilities, households and public spaces. There are robots that use a camera and sensor to check the product display shelves and find out-of-stock products, or wrong product placements and messy displays, reducing in this way the workload and optimising the business logistics.

At home, these robots are also part of our lives. For example, the self-driving vacuum cleaners, the communication robots that assist us in everyday tasks, or the systems that suggest recipes using ingredients stored in the refrigerator.


Collaborative robots or cobots

Industrial robots have played an important role in some industries, such as the automotive industry and its suppliers. The high costs, large sizes, weights or complex programming requirements have limited their use in other industries. But also the fear of robots dominating the workplace and replacing human employees has been a main barrier.

Cobots are designed to address this fear. A collaborative robot is not intended to take the place of a human worker. Instead, cobots augment and enhance human capabilities, in many cases in form of an arm that equips the worker with an extra set of hands. With more precision, extra strength and data capabilities, cobots can do more and provide added value to the company and its workers.

Rather than pre-programmed to perform a set of instructions, many collaborative robots are trained by humans and can develop new features learning by imitation. One example is the BionicCobot, a robot connected to IT systems from the field of ­AI. This robot can understand and interpret spoken questions asked by a person. In this way, a person and a robot collaborate intuitively.


Collaborative robots are used in different industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, law enforcement, construction, agriculture or supply chain management.

Everyday more, we can see the human acceptance and enthusiasm in working with collaborative robots, as workers are recognising that cobots can help them do the job better, and are not taking their jobs.

For this reason, companies are increasingly investing in cobots to work alongside with workers, instead of choose robots that are meant to replace their jobs. Even in the terminology there are differences: many see the term “robot” as scary, but the term “cobot” is more comforting and friendly.

Social robots

Nowadays, social robots can be found both at homes and in the workplaces. Social robots are likely to play, in a near future, a more prominent role in each dimension of our lives, along with the technologic developments. The use of social robots can include:

  • engagement: providing potential customers with information about products and services,
  • telepresence: allowing a remote access to an event,
  • tutoring: providing learners with a fun and interactive way to practice and develop new skills,
  • companionship: offering emotional support to all those that are young, elderly or disabled.


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[nextpage title=”Additional resources”]

  • What is Industry 4.0?

  • Robotics and Industry 4.0

  • Evolution of robotics

  • Industrial robots versus non-industrial robots

  • Education 4.0 and 21st Century Skills

  • 7 reasons why robotics should be taught in school

  • The role of robots in the education of the future

  • What types of robots are used in education?

  • Available curricula for LEGO® MINDSTORMS

  • Personal and social robots

  • Humanoid robots as teachers

  • Self-learning robots

  • Environmental-aware robots

  • What are cobots?

  • Social robots