Latest e-Learning Tool: Robot Teachers

April 2, 2012

in e-Learning, Ideas, Learning Technologies

Probably this seems to be on the mind of researchers in South Korea. They have been putting in serious effort to get robots accompany human teachers in classrooms. Sometimes, robots may serve the primary teacher, and even the stand alone ones without human guidance! During the second decade, robots may be replacing many English-speaking teachers in South Korean institutions.

The robot teacher
This should be similar to the e-learning environment which the internet now provides to its creative learners. If this shapes up, the researchers at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology can emerge with an army of robots to deliver English instructions to school children, delivering the most elaborate online-learning effort yet.

The robots are being designed from the ground up, and will possibly posses realistic facial features, with arms and gestures, and sensors allowing them to keep their distance from students. These brightly colored penguin-like three feet tall robots know speech, transmit audio, reveal expressions and roll around. Besides, they can help you with pronunciation. They are operational in two manners- either teaches through pre-programmed exercises or with the help of a human operator (via the internet).

The need for robot teacher
Robots have been made to help humans since long, whether in the form of the EcoBot (which powers itself by eating flies) or the NeuroArm (made to help the neurosurgeon get into your head). For South Korea, the need for robot teachers is mainly due to its lack of native English speaking teachers. This effort can serve an improvement for local teachers having inadequate knowledge on the subject.

For this technology driven nation, designing robots seems to be a chosen option over ‘importing’ foreign talent. Another reason emerges to be the attraction which these toy-like creatures may create for children, scoring over the boring Webcam.

The idea is to increase the role of robots, and decrease the role of human teachers. However, human teachers are not supposedly going to vanish!

Extended manifestation of this technology
It is anticipated that in the long run, these robots will emerge cheaper than ‘importing’ English-speaking teachers. Another advantage which the team is pointing to is the elimination of ‘moral problems’. Robots also do not break the law, which has emerged a concern for the government in the past.

With robots around, learning sessions may not remain restricted to classrooms. These robots can potentially deliver beyond class-hours, learn as they teach and behave highly informed instructors. Their skill can find specific applicability in treating developmental problems in autistic patients. This project has a whooping $100 million support from the South Korean government, and engages about 300 researchers.

Besides South Korea, many countries have been testing teaching machines in classrooms. According to the University of Washington, robots can provide the right kind of technology at a crucial period in child’s development. This can potentially supplement learning in the classroom. However, robots completely replacing human teachers seem impractical. They can probably work best complementary to human beings.

Still time to go…..
This year itself, South Korea may operate several robots in preschools. In a demonstration at the research lab, the robots revealed encouraging gestures although they shall be trained further to deliver better. For a country like South Korea, robotics indulging in the chores, besides teaching, should not appear unusual. But time shall judge the usefulness of robotics for the entire human species.

There are cultural, political, and religious implications of this idea. Most computer scientists are of the opinion that they have no intention (and capability) to replace human teachers.

Technology can play incredibly in educating people; however, there are many schools which still restrict their skills to the old and tested thoughts.

About the author: Margaret is a blogger by profession. She loves writing on environment and technology. Beside this she is fond of books. She recently did an article on honeywell wind turbine. These days she is busy in writing an article on charlie baker.



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