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Social Robotics for the Social Professions

Social Robotics for the Social Professions

At Atlantic Technological University in North West Ireland, we have been exploring the challenge of incorporating social robotics, AI and other technologies into the education and professional formation of the social professions (such as elder care, occupational therapy, social work and early years education). Typically the educational programmes for these occupations lack a critical and focused approach to such technologies, leaving emerging social professionals less equipped to engage in discussion and practice in the workplace.

We present two aspects of our work, and introduce two social robots – Paro and Nao – that we have used in order to create these learning opportunities.

  1. Building on the EU-funded PRoSPEro project (2018-22) we will provide information on the challenges of incorporating education about social robotics and AI into social professional education. We outline the aims and objectives of the project, some of the learning techniques we explored, and some of the interesting cultural differences that emerged in seeking to develop learning activities across some EU countries. We talk about approaches – such as ‘tinkering’, drama and design workshops – that have proven effective.


  1. Linked to our work on development of educational materials and approaches, we conducted some small-scale research on how the Paro robot was deployed in a real-world setting: a dementia day care unit in Ireland. We used Normalisation Process Theory as a way to better understand how and why the Paro robot was (and wasn’t) used. We reflect that greater consideration needs to be given to how adoption of a robot in a care setting relates to existing workflows and relationships.

We are currently engaged in the development of two MOOCs (online courses) in social robotics for social professionals. We are very interested in talking about these and how they may be made available across the world, and in broader questions about how to engage the care community – carers, managers, regulators, funders – in conversations about the use (or non-use) of various types of social robots in various types of settings. A key question is also how widely available Generative AI may change the whole picture (we don’t have the answer to that!)

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    Atlantic Technological University
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