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Will Robots Replace Human Teachers?

Robots Are Coming to Classrooms

Will this be your child's new teacher?

Will this be your child's new teacher?

Just What Would a Robot Teacher Do?

In Masan, South Korea, robots are being used to teach English to young children, with mixed reviews. Some children think the robots are fun, but some are frustrated that the robots can't really understand what they are trying to say. Currently, some robots are programmed to teach English with speech recognition software, and some sing songs with children. Others are telepresence robots which enable children to learn from native speakers of English who are far away. In Korea the robot teachers are used primarily with preschool and kindergarten children. In Japan they will be used with older children.

Currently the robots are not being used to replace teachers, but to supplement them. However, they are talking about letting them have a larger role as the robots become capable of more. In Japan, NIT's e-Nuvo humanoid robots are equipped with projectors, and will build interest in science and engineering as they discuss robotics.

Image: Photobucket

What's been written about robots as teachers?

Robotic teachers and teaching assistants are being tested in South Korea and Japan. They are also being experimented with for teaching special needs children, especially those with autism, here in the United States. Much of this research is taking place in San Diego.

A researcher at MIT expressed concern that if robots are used in teaching children, children may begin to think technology is a master. Others say this won't happen because the robotic teachers will only be supplemental. I'm not so sure. I see how powerful the unelected staff assistants seem to be in local government bodies. I've noticed that those who are elected seem to just take staff's advice. It makes me wonder just who is really governing. Staff is also "supplemental."

Sometimes perception is everything. Some children respond better to the robotic than to the human teachers. They imitate them and learn by that imitation. Some robotic teachers have been trained to cry if children pull their arms, so that they will seem more human. They can also be taught to "think" and answer questions. Why might children not think them authoritative?

Be sure to click the fourth link to find out more about this new research.

More About Robots Used in Education

A better way to learn a second language? - Try Rosetta Stone

Many people are using Rosetta Stone now to learn new languages. It comes in a variety of languages and you can choose the one that's best for you. I've selected French to spotlight below, but once you're there, you can see what other languages are available.

Would You Like to Bring a Robotic Teacher into Your Home? - Your preschool just may take to robotic teachers

These both teach the basic skills children need to have before starting kindergarten. They aren't compatible with children under three, but those over three will enjoy interacting with them as they learn. They will sing and dance, as well as teach your child to count and say the alphabet and recognize letters and numbers. They also teach other cognitive and social skills.

Do Classrooms Need Robots and Computers?

Although at this time, they are not replacing teachers, they are being used to assist in instruction. Do you think they are necessary when we already have computers being used in classrooms?

Robotic Substitute Teacher in Japan. - She is used primarily to teach students about technology.

The children responded well to her, but the human teacher thinks she still has a long way to go to replace him.

Some pros and cons concerning teaching robots.

Those who are promoting the use of robots in the classroom believe they will engage student interest and also enable special guests to interact with students from long distances. I wonder how long the robotic guest will seem unique and able to sustain the initial interest. I'm wondering why a robot with telepresence is a better way to bring in guests than Skype, which will allow the students to actually interact live with a special guest.

Another concern I have is that robots are unfeeling machines when all is said and done. I am wondering what these mechanical wonders can do that can't be done just as well by a computer or an overhead projector or video, which would all be much cheaper to bring in. In one of the videos below, you will see the frustration of a young girl attempting to make the robot recognize what she is trying to say. All of us know the frustration of voice menus that don't offer the option we need and our desperate desire to talk to a real human. As adults, we supposedly can handle this kind of frustration better than a young child.

Another issue I see is technical support. What happens when the "teacher" doesn't work right? Who fixes it? Will the real classroom teacher be expected to be able to repair his assistants when they have technical issues?

My biggest objection, though, is that children, especially young ones, need as much interaction with real human adults as possible. They don't need robotic nannies with no heart during their school day. They need a human who really cares about them and wants to see them be all they can be. They need a teacher with enthusiasm they can catch to interest them in a subject.

Robots Seem to Help Autistic Children

Another Demonstration of a Teaching Robot - Ready to have one like him in your child's class?

It is much less human than SAYA, the substitute teacher in the Japanese science class I showed you in the first video. No one will be pinching its nose to see if it's real.

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Another way to learn a language

If you need a bit more than total immersion and Rosetta Stone doesn't seem right for you, try this. I chose Japanese to spotlight because it's a popular language to learn right now. The course is available in almost any language you do want to learn.

You've seen some robot teachers now. - What do you think of them?

Let's assume there will be vast improvements in the capabilities of robotic teachers. We all know that computers are much better now than they were in 1964 when they took up an entire room and we had to punch cards to communicate with them. We've come along way in making them smaller and giving them voices and ears that can understand what we say most of the time. They can teach us and entertain us. Let's assume that robots will also evolve into much more capable teachers with better voice recognition. Let's say they actually could be programmed to teach -- not just assist.

Would you want your child in a class taught by a robot? Why or why not? (We will assume a human is within earshot.)

You don't need a robot to learn to speak English.

I'll bet even Koreans would learn English better with Rosetta Stone

Is there a favorite teacher you especially remember? What made that teacher stand out from the others you've had?What qualities were special? Please share below, or just let me know you stopped by.

What do you think is the most important quality of a teacher?

MG Singh emge from Singapore on December 12, 2020:

Interesting article that is not in the realm of fantasy. With advancing knowledge and inventions and intelligence it could be possible but I dare say a human will be needed at some stage.

Dale Anderson from The High Seas on May 02, 2018:

This is an interesting question that sparks debate among my friends. Some are utterly against the idea of robot teachers and the others think that it is inevitable.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Paso Robles, CA on March 19, 2014:

@Charito1962: You're right about that. Teachers need heart.

Charito Maranan-Montecillo from Manila, Philippines on March 18, 2014:

Hi. Nice lens. All I can say is that I still believe in HUMAN teachers who have a heart! Robots don't!

Rhonda Lytle from Deep in the heart of Dixie on April 16, 2013:

The idea of robots with children is scary because it would be cost effective and districts might be tempted to replace humans. I think children have enough problems learning social skills with live humans to practice with.

anonymous on April 10, 2013:

I think it would be a grate idea, not only are you getting information of a robot you are getting information of a lot of smart people that programmed it.Morga :)

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Paso Robles, CA on December 03, 2012:

@Melissa Miotke: The teachers I remember most favorably are those who did just that. Those teachers can never be replaced by a robot, but those who don't really care about the children may try to do it anyway. Let's hope not.

Melissa Miotke from Arizona on December 02, 2012:

I think teachers that take time to personally get to know their students and reach out to them in a way that works for each student are the most successful. Very interesting subject!

Sandy Mertens from Frozen Tundra on November 29, 2012:

Nothing better then the real thing. A robot may be fun to assist. But I hope it never comes down to a robot replacing a teacher here in the US.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Paso Robles, CA on November 24, 2012:

@secondlanguagel: That is interesting. I guess they all lack the human element. I can tell you, though, that Rosetta stone may be much better than a bad teacher. I had a bad teacher for Russian one and his sarcasm when I had trouble differentiating sounds was humiliating. A robot at least is emotionally neutral, I hope.

secondlanguagel on November 24, 2012:

As a teacher, I know that nothing beats real human interaction. The Socratic, Platonic, Aristotlean methods are still best: intimate conversations of genuine inquiry. A robot can never do that.Very interesting, though, is that Fluenz challenges Rosetta Stone on those same grounds.

NibsyNell on November 16, 2012:

My favourite teachers were always the ones who would go on half hour monologues about stuff completely unrelated to their subjects. I do worry that these robots would probably not possess this quality.

getmoreinfo on May 13, 2012:

I was just reading about how in manufacturing robots are being used to increase productivity and efficiency, I am really concerned that using a robot in the classroom could not be as efficient.

JoshK47 on January 25, 2012:

Very interesting read... though I hope that this isn't the future, I rather like the idea of human teachers sticking around.

Sher Ritchie on November 28, 2011:

My favourite teacher was Mrs Shelia Mann, who taught final year English. She wanted her students to learn how to see through bad arguments, how to understand a writer's true meaning, how to express themselves constructively - and all whilst still teaching us about spelling, grammar, vocabulary and the like. She encouraged me to form my own view/s on classic books and poems, and always encouraged my efforts. Thankyou Mrs Mann!

Karnel from Lower Mainland of BC on September 05, 2011:

I wasn't aware they use robots this is crazy...Teachers are always remembered, I remember my teachers and that's from 30+ years...Great lens...

anonymous on August 13, 2011:

I remember my sweet teacher from the first and 2nd grade, Mrs. Exstrand. She and Mr. Exstrand lived in the teacherage right in the building. Mr. Exstrand was the assistant, so we got 2 teachers for the price of one. No robot could have taken the place of Mr. or Mrs. Exstrand, they were wonderful and so kind that you just wanted to learn from them. They never once raised their voices and always had time to give a little extra help.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Paso Robles, CA on March 03, 2011:

@Sylvestermouse: What you said hits one of my nerves. I have been forced to endure AT&T's computer interface several times this month, and I've found myself screaming at the robot who won't put me through to a human . Once I get to the humans, they are fine. I would assume that if a robot were "helping" a classroom teacher, the frustrated child would at least have a human around to here his complaint. But I'm with you. I can understand computer drills and models and packaging them as robot teachers, but there has to be a human around -- at least I hope so.

Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on March 03, 2011:

I had no idea robots were already being tested in the classroom! I couldn't be more opposed! I already want to slam my phone on the kitchen counter anytime I get one of those stupid vru's answer. I speak very plain English and half the time the stupid thing says "I don't understand" and starts it's stupid spill over again. I simply don't have time in my day for such foolishness. By the time I finish answering their pre-questions, I could have been completely finished my entire conversation with a customer service rep. and I wouldn't end the call in such a foul mood. I can only imagine how frustrated a child in a classroom would get.

jackieb99 on February 16, 2011:

The robots are so ridiculous!

The Goblins Den on January 31, 2011:

Patience and understanding. Being good at reviewing the material is important, but one needs to understand how to communicate with students who have no knowledge of the subject at hand. It's especially tricky when the students don't want to learn, but that's another can of worms.

Kimberly Hiller from Chicago on January 29, 2011:

I am currently teaching in South Korea and saw this come out. It can only help approximately 8 kids at a time and cost a couple million dollars to make. They are now being used for just after school functions, but maybe someday more. It still isn't as good as having the teacher there speaking conversational English to them in person.

Sheilamarie from British Columbia on January 24, 2011:

A good teacher is someone who cares about the whole child and helps that child be the best she can be. It's not just about pouring knowledge in.

AuthorNormaBudden on January 21, 2011:

I remember being young and, when the teacher would give me praise for a job well done, accompanied by a hug, I was on top of the world. I wouldn't be able to get that from a robot - far from it.

Lynne Schroeder from Blue Mountains Australia on January 20, 2011:

To teach effectively a good teacher needs to be able to understand the child's ability, personality and learning style as well as behavioural traits.

ZablonMukuba on October 15, 2010:

interesting lens

Mrmakingusmile LM on October 14, 2010:

I'm entertained. Thanks for making me smile.

Stephen Carr from Corona, CA on June 24, 2010:

Very interesting lens and one that made me think a little bit. The most important qualities of a teacher are wanting to be there, and knowing what they are teaching.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Paso Robles, CA on March 04, 2010:

@strayspay: Strayspay, you've got another chance. Your comment for some reason did not make it to the duel. It didn't need approval, but I checked to make sure nothing was pending. Hope you will give it another try. We'd like to hear what you were going to say.

strayspay on March 04, 2010:

I replied I would have no objection on your duel lens but I think it is so sad to think of mechanisms replacing people. This is a great lens and a great topic. I wish I'd have qualified my comment as the Whistler did by saying it should only be allowed as a tool for teachers.

anonymous on March 04, 2010:

Do not humiliate a child for any reason. If a child has a problem then a private consultation is required. Children do not need lessons on how to bully. Robots can be programmed to show compassion. I wish we could do that with all human beings.

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on March 04, 2010:

I think the most important quality of a school teacher is to have respect for his/her students and I don't see a Robot being able to show any kind of respect.

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