The Future is here!

July 04, 2016

Pre-schoolers from My First Skool get an opportunity to learn alongside a robot teaching- assistant

Say Cheese:
Children from My First Skool (MFS) at Jurong Point Level 3 striking a pose with Pepper the Robot, together with Executive Principal, Ms Rachel d/o Manykam (left) and teacher Ms Archana Godge Mandar (right).

On 31st May, at the Infocomm Media Business Exchange (imbX) at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre, Communications and Information Minister Dr Yaacob Ibrahim announced three initiatives by the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA). One of them is on how we are imbuing our young with future skills. Under the Infocomm Media 2025’s Playmaker programme, IDA has been introducing technology-enabled toys to 160 pre-school centres to foster creativity and problem- solving skills among children. The key highlight of the event is an interesting demo lesson by a robot, called Pepper, at the IDA Pavilion in imbX. A collaboration among IDA, Softbank Telecom Singapore and the Nanyang Technological University Robotics Research Centre, the pilot explores the use of social-humanoid robots in early childhood education through interactive storytelling and collaborative play.

Savvy pre-schoolers: MFS children, Kayden Lim (left) and Nicole Liang (right) sharing their experiences with Pepper the Robot with reporters.

Pepper the Robot is a humanoid teaching companion for pre-school children. It can aid teachers in telling children stories, singing songs and dancing along with them too! My First Skool (MFS) at Jurong Point Level 3 is one of the two pre-school centres where the pilot study of the use of robots in pre-school teaching is currently ongoing. The pilot which runs till October, is conducted in partnership with Soft Bank Telecom Singapore and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Robotics Research Centre.

Candid moment: Minister Dr Yacob Ibrahim interacting with MFS child, Jayden Lim.

In a pre-school setting, Pepper would not replace a teacher, but will in turn assist them in music lessons and in simulating different sound effects to complement the lessons. The children were provided with books and videos to get them used to the idea of the robot being the “teacher’s assistant,” rather than just a robot to play with. Now, the children look forward to lessons conducted with Pepper, which are fun-filled activities ranging from telling interactive stories, playing memory games and even singing songs and leading in dance-alongs! To the children, Pepper is not just a teacher’s assistant, but also their friend. While other pre-school children may not have seen Pepper before, this is not the first time Pepper the Robot has made an appearance!

Earlier this year, Pepper was presented at the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA)’s Learning Pod space in Gardens by the Bay for the ‘Future of Us’ exhibition. At the exhibition, children from MFS at Jurong Point Level 3 had an opportunity to showcase the robot to fellow pre-schoolers from other schools. Apart from Pepper the Robot, the exhibition featured dry ice bubbles and a propeller balloon air craft from a “wind-table”. The children truly enjoyed playing and learning from these educational toys.

Click here to check out the video where MFS children get to perform with Pepper the Robot at the ‘Future of Us’ Exhibition

Written by:

Razeen Banu
NTUC First Campus