By Kerri Bartlett, Williamson Herald
Some Franklin Special School District students have found a new friend in Milo, who encourages, shows patience, helps them with educational lessons and even loves dance parties.
Teachers, who work with students with autism, introduced Milo, to board members of the Franklin Special School District Monday during its monthly board meeting. Milo, a lifelike boy humanoid robot used as a learning tool for students, stands about two feet tall and aids students in curriculum instruction and social skills.
Milo showed board members what he could do at the meeting by suggesting a dance party, demonstrating his dance moves, and explaining educational tips for students. Milo also demonstrated facial expressions, showing emotions as happy, sad and mad. When mad, Milo even helps autistic students learn how to cool down, such as counting to 10, taking a breath or squeezing a ball.
FSSD will pilot Milo, which was donated to the district, as a learning tool to a small sample size of about six special education students over the next year, then reassess the program.
“Usually students don’t refer to Milo as a robot but as ‘my friend,’” Katie Menanno, FSSD Autism Consultant, said.
Milo was developed by RoboKind, a robotics company in Dallas and is a humanoid robot that engages children with autism that delivers research-based lessons and teaches social skills. Teachers operate Milo from a small control panel and iPad and use the curriculum Robots4Autism for instruction.
“Students are really engaged and give him eye contact,” said Beth Herren, FSSD Special Populations Supervisor. “He also doesn’t mind repeating himself over and over again, which is something that autistic students might need often.”
In a pilot report, Herren and Menanno wrote that students’ experiences with Milo as a teaching tool have been positive, even when students might get an answer wrong.
“When the student got an answer incorrect, Milo was patient, consistent, and never minded repeating himself,” the report said.
Meanwhile, FSSD grandmother Patty Canter spoke to the board during public comments, expressing her belief that textbooks by the publisher Pearson seem to be “indoctrinating” children regarding the Islamic religion. However, the district does not currently use Pearson textbooks.
“It is a dangerous thing for children and the county,” Canter said. Canter accused the publisher of being “deeply involved” in the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, a fundamentalist group involved in the Islamic Resistance Movement.
Canter also requested that Harry Potter book be removed from classrooms and the library, calling the popular series by “cult-based” and promoting occult activities.
Also, long-time school board member Robert Blair was inducted into the Tennessee School Board Association (TSBA) state school board.
“I am honored to represent FSSD in that position and appreciate the opportunity,” Blair said.