Non-formal education is becoming increasingly important for today’s schoolchildren, as it can not only give them additional knowledge, but perhaps even introduce them to a future profession. Encouraging children’s involvement and using the funding under the measure ‘Experiment’ (in Lithuanian: Eksperimentas) published by the Lithuanian Business Support Agency (LBSA), public institution VŠĮ Robotics Academy is currently developing a smart personalised education system for children and young people.

Longer learning period
Today is the 25th time that Lithuania celebrates the Day of Science and Knowledge, which was added to the list of commemorative days in 1997. It symbolises not only the start of a new school year, but also reminds us of the importance of education, educational institutions and knowledge. Today’s children are receiving information more often not only within the walls of the school, but also outside through various non-formal education activities.

The Robotics Academy (in Lithuanian: Robotikos akademija) invites children from four to ten years of age to learn programming, and constructing and delving into the secrets of robotics. Because each child is individual and has different needs, the Academy’s developers have come up with a way to further involve children in the learning process.

The intelligent personalised education system for children and young people – working title Exoclass (in Lithuanian: egzoklasė) – is still under development, but it will later help every classroom in a school or school club to improve academic performance by making learning more engaging, motivating and intelligent.

‘The system will work using similar principles to those used in modern computer games. The main difference is that the aim of the engagement tools used in computer games is to make the player spend as much time in the game as possible. Meanwhile, our system will use similar tools – missions, rewards, leader boards – to improve pupils’ involvement in education,’ says Lukas Kanapienis, Head of Digital Expansion at the Robotics Academy.

In the future, it is planned to integrate an innovation that does not currently exist in education but is emerging in other markets, to reward pupils for their academic achievements.

‘Imagine that you have become the best pupil of the month in the country and received a prize of EUR 500 or a digital currency equivalent. Wouldn't that motivate you to work even harder and achieve scientific results?’, asks Kanapienis.
Adaptable in schools
The project is worth more than EUR 742,000, of which EUR 555,000 is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the rest is provided by the Robotics Academy. A prototyping phase is currently underway and will soon be tested with teachers and pupils to develop the first version of the application.

‘In educating future leaders, it is important to use innovative tools that involve children in learning and broadening their horizons. The measure ‘Experiment’ initiated by LBSA promotes the development of research and experimental activities, so it is great that its funding is used in a project that is focused on a very important part of our society – children’, says Inga Lukošiūnaitė, Head of LBSA Science and Innovation Projects Division.

The entire system is developed using a scientific methodology introduced by scientists at Kaunas University of Technology, which is based on a personalisation test.

‘The test carried out with the class identifies individual player-pupil types, which show different actions that motivate an individual child or group of children, as well as pupils’ levels of basic social skills. With this data and using the system we can make education more like a game, i.e. increase involvement in it and also personalise education according to pupils, and thus improve academic results by tailoring the content of the lessons to their level of social skills,’ explains the Academy representative.

This system will enable children to see science more like a game and become more involved, to discover the best ways to learn and to learn to work together in the classroom with the teacher.
Wants to transform education
The project is implemented together with partner UAB Šviesūs projektai, who look after the Robotics Academy IT system.

‘Designing and implementing a project is very difficult – starting from the concept to the implementation. The idea to create such a system originated 4–5 years ago, but it took us a while to be able to give it all the time and attention it requires,’ says Kanapienis.

He adds that a professional team has already been assembled, so in a few years the fully operational solution will not only be used in this Academy, but also in regular schools and clubs.

‘We want to help transform education,’ he says.

Children attending the Robotics Academy can already experience the gamification elements in education – all the content used here is developed by the staff of the institution and the children’s learning is more like a game than a formal lecture.

In addition to having fun creating robots, children also acquire many useful competencies here – not only direct construction or programming skills, but also a different way of looking at problems and finding solutions.

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