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PEERbot Learning Programs: Social/Emotional Learning with Robots

Making sure all children can access their own ability to learn, by introducing Social Robots and Learning Mats to early learners now!

Capitalizing on the archetypal human/robot relationship that all ages possess, PEERbot Learning will reduce inhibition in Early Learners and inspire a deep desire to connect with the social robot; to communicate with him as a peer, to understand him and to listen to him—fostering communication and igniting social/emotional learning!


Information on this page is provided by the innovator and has not been evaluated by HundrED.

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Target group
February 2019
I have seen first hand, the response from our young people when working with a PEERbot robot. Just as promised, their attention spans were lengthened and they were able to focus more as they engaged with the robot. They took direction from him, enjoyed his encouragement and they expressed themselves with little or no inhibition.

About the innovation

PEERbot Play Learning: Social Robot Enhancements for Social/Emotional Learning

Fine Art Miracles, Inc. (FAM) has a mission to serve both challenged and neuro-typical children with social robotic learning enhancements that ignite communication and change an “I can’t” attitude into a resounding “I can!” This opens a world of possibilities for all children and bolsters inclusiveness in their classrooms and in their communities.

We were first introduced to Social Robotics through Aubrey Shick inventor of the Romibo Robot, specifically made to work with children on the autism spectrum. Together, we completed a pilot program for Carnegie Mellon University, taking Romibo out of the laboratory and into a real-time classroom for the first time. We were so excited at the success of the program, that we continued to partner with Shick to develop FAM's social robotics enhanced learning program. (Today Aubrey Shick is FAM Head of Research and Technology.)

After seeing the way childen (with and without autism) respond to social robots in art therapy sessions, FAM decided to bring the robot into preschools, where children were having difficulty settling into a school setting, being on their own, socializing, making choices and taking turns. Our experience with challenged primary school students and typical preschoolers, gave the illusion that preschoolers with challenges was the next natural step. At that time, we didn’t know what we didn’t know.

It turned out we needed a whole new robot and a new methodolgy! Children respond best to a robot that resembles a peer—a best friend, a pet, a buddy. FAM made and discarded about 20 robot prototypes before discovering we needed a smaller, simpler, softer robot for these very early learners. Simple bright colors, an off-the-charts-cute face and a humanoid, but still robotic voice. The robot resembles a peer but remains a robot—essential for the HRI to occur!

Next, we needed the time frame to be shortened, punctuated with a beginning, middle and end and the duration could not go longer than 12 to 15 minutes.

Third, we had to keep the kids actively engaged. Our lessons had to be fun and learning had to be disguised as playing. Based on our experience using sensory coverings for kids on the autism spectrum, we decided to try our hand at creating a new version of these, exploring SEL for early learners.

We also wanted to combine literacy with SEL, so we examined lots of books, got recommendations from teachers, moms, librarians, and made very specific choices. Next we chose simple themes from each book, composed a robotic conversation, game, or activity and we dissected the books to create soft appliques for the newly christened: FAM Learning Mats.

Now, our softbot named, “Migo,” had a platform. And PEERbot was born.

PEERbot was tested in the home and in school settings with children from 11 months to 3 years of age. We got better at helping Migo deliver a smooth dialogue; information and questions; at keeping the kids engaged and following a shortened methodolgy. So far, the children appear to love the experience. They engage with Migo and with the Learning Mat. Sometimes shy to begin, once Migo starts talking, the children respond. They giggle and slowly reach out to touch him. As the minutes progress they follow his directions, helping one another, sharing the objects, responding to questions about, “what a pig says,” or “whether a horse climbs trees,” and, “where a chicken lives;” or questions about colors, numbers, shapes and more.

All sessions are evaluated digitally, using the following measures:

  • Pre/During/Post classroom teacher goals and learning objective assessments, with facilitator weekly reports on progress - Likert scale reports and photo-documented completed work.

  • PEERbot Instructor evaluations with simplified coding schemes based on the Zones of Regulation curriculum by Leah Kuypers.

  • PEERbot Instructor surveys noting: eye contact, personal space, verbalization between child peers and the teacher (and sometimes social robots) before/during/after each session.

FAM’s programs have seen positive results in the areas of Social Emotional Learning, using social robots as peer agents. These PEERbots are particularly effective for students who have difficulty learning from standard social skills programming. Teachers, especially those in under-performing school districts, express an urgent need to bring challenged students to the same level of competency as their typically developing counterparts. Many educators in preschools, daycare centers and early learning programs are keenly aware of this need and are looking to FAM, for innovative solutions.

Implementation steps

Define your need(s)

Define the students' age range:

  • 0 - 2 years

  • 3 - 4 years

  • 5 year olds

  • 6 year olds

Determine their capability levels:

  • Children with challenges?

  • Typically developing children?

Define your goals:

  • Are you hoping to foster joint attention?

  • Do you want to increase communication and verbalization?

  • Are you targeting specific social skills? If so, what are they?

  • Areyou looking to foster literacy?

Do you want to increase a sense of security, reduce inhibition, offer sensory learning or increase task completion and the resulting feelings of accomplishment?

Do you have other goals?

The Lesson Plan Details

Think about subject matter and activities:



Social Skills




Choose a theme for your PEERbot program.

Choose your solution

Next, it's time to talk to a member of the FAM Robotics Team!

You can:

1) Give the FAM Robotics Team information about your targeted student age, goals and timeline and allow us to put a program together that will address your needs.

  • The FAM Robotics Team will create your Lessons:

  • Choose an age appropriate book the robot can read; one that pertains to your theme. (Such as a "Farm " theme using "Baby's First Tractor Book" for children 18 mo. to 2 years of age, with challenges that may or may not be diagnosed.

  • Program the book into a palette in the robot's software.

  • Create a robotic interaction palette. Program that into the robot.

  • Most programs consist of 4 to 8 sessions.

  • A member or members of the FAM Team will then implement the program and collect data from each sessions.

  • This data will be used to compose a summary report that will be given to you at the program's end.


2) You can be more directly involved in the design and implementation of the PEERbot Program. You can:

  • Brainstorm with the FAM Team to choose themes for the lessons;

  • Choose books to go along with the themes;

  • Choose the PEERbot robot for the job (FAM has social robots: large and small, with differing capabilities. All are easily operated!)

  • Learn how to program and operate the PEERbot robot;

  • Implement lessons yourself, or co-teach them with the FAM Team.


  1. Remember to engage just a few children--we recommend 3 or 4 max.

  2. Keep the engagement short - four 15 minute sessions for 3 children is more impactful than 60 minutes for 12!

  3. Put the robot front and center--where everyone can see him.

  4. Have the robot introduce himself and you.

  5. Give the children a chance to hug the robot and say hello at the beginning and goodbye at the end.

  6. Allow the robot to facilitate the session, with you as his assistant.

  7. Have the robot read the book to the children, asking questions after each page. This will keep them engaged and allow you to gauge their comprehension. Use the Learning Mat with the book.

  8. Follow up the reading with an activity or a game. Again, the robot will direct and you are the helper. This is a good time to work on taking turns, sharing, listening skills--all while having fun!

  9. At the lesson's end, remember to have the robot say goodbye and let everyone take turns hugging him goodbye.

  10. Instructors will complete evaluative forms for the group or for individuals immediately following the lesson.


Based on the success of your PEERbot Play Learning experience, you can easily offer programs on a regular basis. We find that repetition helps a lot of kids learn, particularly with social skills--practicing them and building on them fosters success!

Lessons can target very basic social skills such as:

  • Joint Attention

  • Eye Contact

  • Saying or clapping your name

  • Saying hello

  • Acknowledging others

  • Sharing

Or lessons can target more complex issues:

  • Being a friend,

  • How to say "no" to a friend,

  • Teamwork

FAM also plans to make PEERbot Play Learning Kits available for sale very soon. Robots, Learning Mats and Lesson Plans and book recommendations in a kit--what could be easier? Learn to do it yourself or continue to allow the FAM Team to implement. The choice will be yours!

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