A&M Commerce School of Social Work partnering with an IT professional has initiated an innovative project introducing service robots into the classroom and a community agency setting. This project explores the opportunities and challenges of integrating TEMI, an interactive robot, into the social work program, student services, and community settings.

Social Work and Robots: Preparing for the Future

Service robots are believed to be the way of the future with advancements inaccessibility of artificial intelligence (AI); we now have a catalyst to allow computers to interact with humans. This session will provide an overview of (1) TEMI, an affordable service robot as a tool for education; (2) social work students’ responses to this technology and (3) opportunities and challenges of merging the science of AI into a human service field.

Students beginning their academic careers in 2020, will be early in their professional adventures in 2025 – when it is predicted this technology will be widespread. In an ongoing, exploratory research study that investigates social work students’ perceptions of service robots, we are finding not only a willingness to engage with robots, but also a desire to learn more and be exposed to curriculum related to service robots. Spurred by these initial responses, a collaborative partnership between A&M-Commerce School of Social Work and an IT Developer with expertise in AI is introducing three service robots into the classroom, a community agency and student services beginning Spring semester 2020.

No matter what source one might read – MSN online, text books in robotics, Pew Research Initiatives or published literature in academic sources, it is consistently iterated how technological advancements are both currently and will be futuristically impacting human relationships in virtually every aspect of existence. Additionally, the predications that 65% of students entering public school now will need to prepare for jobs that do not currently exist, and that by 2025 robots will have invaded many aspects of our daily lives including as service providers or companions for vulnerable populations, supports the need for students to be exposed to this rapidly expanding technology.

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