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Robots in the Classroom

Nathan Sodré Salvatierra/WikiCommons

It’s always funny to watch those old shows and movies depicting what society would be like in the far off 21st Century. While we haven’t created flying cars just yet, nor perfected our galaxy hopping abilities, we have created something just as crazy to comprehend (at least for me) – robots that can teach kids foreign languages, household tasks, and social skills.

According to a recent New York Times article, the most advanced models of these robots are equipped with motion tracking and speech recognition softwares, which allow them to simulate the way teachers teach. And they do a pretty good job. At the University of California at San Diego, a robot was used to teach Finnish to preschoolers. The preschoolers who were taught by the robot scored higher on language tests than preschoolers taught with less interactive learning strategies like tapes. When compared to being taught by a human teacher, however, the preschoolers’ scores were about the same.

In some countries, these robots have already been put to the test in the classroom. South Korea is in the process of “ hiring” robots to teach English, and to serve as teachers’ aides and classroom playmates.

While computer scientists say that robots won’t be able to replace human teachers altogether (whew!), they do have high hopes for their ability to supplement learning in the classroom.

So what do you think – are these things cool or just plain freaky?