This case study on Robots covers the theme on the Politics and Sociology of Educational Technology, and is aimed at students Grades 4-6. As you work your way through this case study, reflect on the overarching questions:

What is culture? What is a robot’s culture? Is a robot alive?

The site is divided into several sections:

1. Artifacts

All information and media relating to the case study are on this page, in the form of blog posts. They cover a range of topics on the case study:

  • Relationships with Robots
  • What Can Robots Do?
  • Can Robots Form Friendships?
  • Can Robots be Alive?
  • Can Robots Replace People?

2. For Teachers

In this section, teachers will find a recommended Lesson Plan for students Grades 4-6 covering the case study.

Teachers may also refer to the References sub-page for their own research to delve deeper into the case study.

3. For Students

To help students gain more from the case study, they are encouraged to go through this section where they will find Activities to be carried out in conjunction with the posted materials.

4. Comments and Feedback

Please feel free to provide your comments and feedback on the case study.

Relationships with Robots

As you work your way through the activities in this case study, keep track of your notes on this padlet.

With the holidays right around the corner, many minds are turning to toy shopping and what might be under construction at Santa’s toyshop. Take a look at what’s at the Robot Shop. What catches your eye and why?

In the 80s, children were introduced to interactive technology with devices like Speak and Spell. Today’s interactive devices are far more fluid and interactive than toys were 35 years ago; Ubooly is an interactive robot toy intended for children:

Lego Mindstorm involves drag and drop programming appropriate for older children.

Interactive Yoda comes pre-programmed with a number of phrases and three play modes for interaction. Hello Barbie interacts with children and conversations are stored on a remote server for two years. The more children interact with her the more she learns about them and the more precise her interactions. Developers assure nervous parents that conversations will never be released and will not be used for marketing purposes; Hello Barbie comes with some controversy.

It has become normal to see people interacting with their devices and “Hello, Siri?” has become a part of daily conversation as has the phrase, “Ok, Google…”

Pleo RB is a lifelike robotic companion pet. Like any real-life pet, Pleo RB goes through hunger and fatigue. It has four life stages from newborn to adult, the progress of which depends on the owner’s level of interaction.

What do you think? What are the advantages of relationships with robots? What might some disadvantages be? Some child psychologists suggest that interactive toys might be interfering with child development. In your opinion, how is childhood today different than it was 50 or 100 years ago?

Materials required for this lesson:

Computer, projector, Internet access


Andrews, T. “Are Interactive Toys Interfering with Child Development?”. Mashable. Feb 25, 2014. Web. retrieved from: http://mashable.com/2014/02/25/interactive-toys-development/#uX2gNZlPQSq6 Oct 2015.

ChipChick. “Hello Barbie is World’s First Interactive Barbie Doll”. Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube February 15, 2015. https://youtu.be/RJMvmVCwoNM. Web. October 2015.

Google. “The Google app: Questions”. Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube May 3, 2015. https://youtu.be/5shykyfmb28. Web. Oct 2015.

Google. “The Google app: Road Trip”. Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube September 26, 2015. https://youtu.be/Na9y-Sssbt0. Web. Oct 2015.

iRamixx. “Hello, Siri.” Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube October 4, 2011. https://youtu.be/8ciagGASro0. Web. October 2015.

Lego Group. (2015) Lego Lego Mindstorms EV3. Retrieved from http://www.lego.com/en-us/mindstorms/build-a-robot. Oct 2015.

MrCrazyCommercial. “Speak and Spell Commercial (circa 1980).” Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube April 5, 2010. https://youtu.be/qM8FcN0aAvU. Web. Nov 2015.

PLEOrb Innvolabs. “How to Train a Responsible and Caring Kid, PLEO rb is here to help”. Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube March 7, 2012. https://youtu.be/PEF92N9oaP4. Web. Nov 2015.

Ubooly Inc. (2015). Ubooly. Retrieved from http://www.ubooly.com/.

Ubooly Creature. “Meet Ubooly”. Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube Oct. 30, 2012. https://youtu.be/vYj7trLBfh4. Web. October 2015.

Ubooly Creature. “Ubooly How it Works”. Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube June 24, 2013. https://youtu.be/OgWgJUs0Hyg. Web. October 2015.

Robotics. “Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 Commercial”. Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube November 10, 2011. https://youtu.be/uaNFbWj-XqI. Web. October 2015.

Robotshop Inc. (2015). Robot Toys. Retrieved from http://www.robotshop.com/en/robot-toys.html. Nov. 2015.

What Can Robots Do?

One of the reasons for the advancement of robotics technology are all the things robots can do that people can’t or won’t do because the work is too dangerous or too menial. In the previous lessons, we have explored the often uneasy relationships between humans and robots. If the relationship is so uneasy, why do we keep making robots? Will robots ever not need humans?

Robots can self assemble to meet the needs of humans that were not foreseen when the robot was originally assembled. And robots can now self-replicate or make copies of itself. Will we arrive at a point where a tool that humans built to make our lives easier no longer need us?

Materials required for this lesson:

Computer, projector, Internet access


MIT Video. (Feb 1, 2012). Small Cubes that Self-Assemble. Retrieved from: http://video.mit.edu/watch/small-cubes-that-self-assemble-25913/. Oct. 2015.

PM Editors. (2015). 61 Incredible Things Robots Can do Now. Retrieved from: http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/robots/g1872/what-robots-can-do-now/?slide=16 Nov. 2015.

Steel, B. (May 25, 2005). Researchers Build a Robot that can Reproduce. Cornell Chronicle. Retrieved from: http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2005/05/researchers-build-robot-can-reproduce. Oct. 2015.

Can Robots Form Friendships?

Robots have appeared in fiction for a long time. Metropolis, a film released in 1927, is a classic film exploring our relationships with robots. Even though our familiarity and number of daily interactions with robots has increased, the human-robot relationship remains somewhat uneasy. In this lesson we explore what it means to have relationships and how that might be different for the human and for the machine.


Big Hero 6

The Iron Giant

In The Iron Giant, Hogarth discovers a robot with whom he forms a friendship.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

  1. If you were Hogarth’s mother, what would you say to Hogarth when he told you about the robot?
  2. If you were Mr. Mosley, the government agent, what would you say to Hogarth?
  3. If you were Hogarth, what would you like to say to your mother? To the Government agent?

Leave your responses in the comments.

Materials required for this lesson:

Computer, projector, Internet access


Disney UK. “Wall-E Official Trailer”. Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube June 20, 2008. https://youtu.be/alIq_wG9FNk. Web. October 2015.

Herman Yeung. “The Iron Giant Trailer”. Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube https://youtu.be/JgjmFBX34zc. Web. Oct. 2015.

Metropolis. (1927 film). (2015, November 2). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 22:12, November 11, 2015, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Metropolis_(1927_film)&oldid=688752760

MovieClips Trailers. “Big Hero 6 Official NYCC Trailer (2014) – Disney Animation Movie HD”. Online video clip. Youtube.Youtube https://youtu.be/d2S8D_SCAJY. Web. Oct. 2015.

Can Robots Be Alive?

Sometimes I Forget You’re a Robot

Todd Parr’s Sometimes I Forget You’re a Robot explores a young boy’s relationship with a robot, who turns out to be nothing like what he expected! On this padlet, comment on a personal connection you made while reading.

Watch the video here.

Frank N’ Stan

In Frank N’ StanFrank wants a new brother, but his mother just says, “We’ll see.” When he creates a robot and flips the switch, the lights flicker on and Stan the robot is “alive”. What does it mean to be “alive”. Can a robot be “alive”? When finally Frank’s mom has a baby, Stan feels so sad and jealous that he runs away. Can robots have emotions?

Boy Plus Bot

A boy and a robot form a relationship and have feelings for each other, such that when the robot fails to respond, the Boy is worried about him and vice versa. They worry about one another being sick and even dying. Can a robot die?

Materials required for this lesson:

Computer, projector, Internet access


Sam Brown’s Sometimes I Forget You’re a Robot.

MP Robertson’s Frank N’ Stan

Ame Dyckman; Dan Yaccarino‘s Boy+Bot


Brown, S. (Oct 17, 2013). Sometimes I Forget You’re a Robot. Dial Books.

Christine Hsu. “Boy Bot”. Online Video clip. Youtube. Youtube https://youtu.be/JmU2uXs_xSw. Web. Oct. 2015.

Fox Creek Municipal Library. “Sometimes I Forget You’re a Robot by Sam Brown”. Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube https://youtu.be/4NesC1YX4zg. Web. Oct. 2015.

Robertson, M. (May 13, 2014). Frank N’Stan. Frances Lincon Children’s Books.