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Let’s Learn Biodiversity with a Virtual “Robot”?

Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNAI,volume 12483)


As climate change and biodiversity loss are threatening the natural world’s equilibrium and survival, people’s concerns about these topics have increased significantly. The work presented in this paper lies at the cross-section between the areas of education, biodiversity and technologies. More specifically, this project builds on research in virtual agents in educational settings to promote young children’s engagement with a biodiversity curriculum. In this context, we conducted an observational study with 105 primary school’s children with the goal of evaluating the effectiveness of a virtual robotic agent (presented through a multimedia application), in providing an effective and engaging learning experience about local biodiversity to children. Our results suggested that a) older children (8 to 10 years) knowledge about certain animals and plants from their local biodiversity is well matured; b) younger children (6 to 7 years) present more faithful conceptualisations about nature-related scenarios compared to older children and c) both young and older children exhibited a preference for nature-related scenarios when compared to human-made ones. Our findings provide useful information in favour of the usefulness of implementing user-adaptive learning systems, by considering factors like the children’s previous level of knowledge. Besides, this personalised and interactive type of system might provide an essential advantage in learning scenarios, compared to “static” systems, in enhancing children’s learning outcomes.


  • Biodiversity
  • Virtual robot
  • Learning

We would like to thank the Agência Regional para o Desenvolvimento e Tecnologia (ARDITI) - M1420-09-5369-000001 and Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT): PD/BD/150286/2019 and PD/BD/150570/2020, for PhD grants to first, second and third authors respectively. This work was also supported by FCT - UIDB/50021/2020 and the project AMIGOS: PTDC/EEISII/7174/2014. The authors would also like to acknowledge to António F. Aguiar, the team from Funchal Natural History Museum for all the help with the biodiversity information and to the school EB1/PE from Santa Cruz - Madeira island for their participation.

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  1. 1.

    Pepper robot from SoftBank, available in Accessed: Jan-15-20.

  2. 2.

    RT-Voice PRO available Accessed: Jan-15-20.

  3. 3.

    Mixamo platform for the animation of 3D characters available at Accessed: Jan-15-20.

  4. 4.

    GBIF—the Global Biodiversity Information Facility—is an international network and research infrastructure funded by the world’s governments and aimed at providing anyone, anywhere, open access to data about all types of life on Earth.” available at Accessed: Jan-15-20.

  5. 5.

    All the data regarding the storytelling activity is outside of the scope of this paper.


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Ferreira, M.J., Oliveira, R., Olim, S.C., Nisi, V., Paiva, A. (2020). Let’s Learn Biodiversity with a Virtual “Robot”?. In: , et al. Social Robotics. ICSR 2020. Lecture Notes in Computer Science(), vol 12483. Springer, Cham.

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