Stewarding policy for the use of robots in education with an ethic of care

Year: 2019

Author: Smith, Catherine

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper draws on a recent cross-discipline study on robots used in meeting care needs in education, disability and aged care but is focussed on the data and implications relevant for education and education policy. The paper expands on findings from an ANZSOG funded research project (Dickinson, Smith, Carey & Carey, 2018) on the role of government and policy to steward in new technologies used in care practices, often with vulnerable people. The data was generated through 35 interviews with stakeholders involved with the implementation of robots in Australian and New Zealand care services.

Robots are increasingly appearing as a potential answer to issues of time, wellbeing, and labour shortages in education (Turkle, 2012). However, as the Australian Human Rights Commission (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2018) notes, ‘like any tool, technology can be used for good or ill…modern technology carries unprecedented potential on an individual and global scale. New technologies are already radically disrupting our social, governmental and economic systems’ (pg. 7). New technologies offer significant advantages, but with potential misuse or unintended consequences that need careful consideration so that such developments do not negatively impact particular groups.

The literature on the implementation of digital technologies indicates that if they are not carefully fitted in terms of model of practice, they have less chance of being successfully implemented (Greenhalgh, 2018). This suggests that considerable thought needs to be given to what we mean by care practices in context and the role that robots play within this. Analysis informed by the ethics of care literature (Tronto, 2013) identifies an important issue with provider/vendor driven adoption and identifies how stewardship frameworks might pre-empt concerns for safety and open a policy window in preparation for ethical and safe practices.


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