Sunday, February 19, 2012

If my teacher was a robot ...

Coffee with a robot by Valerie Everett, on Flickr
Following up on my previous post I noticed another article on Mind/Shift called What if robots taught kids. A survey had asked children from countries around the world the following question; “What if robots were part of your everyday life – at school and beyond?” The answers were very positive including the fact that 75% of them saw teaching robots as patient and supportive in educational contexts.
This positive attitude to robots does not mean that the children want robot teachers but it does give an idea of what type of teacher they prefer. The robot's ability to be supportive, non-judgmental and eternally patient is exactly what they would like their ideal teacher to be.

"... overwhelmingly, children asked for teachers who didn’t use shame or scolding if they answered a question wrong or didn’t understand a subject. Their ideal robot learning partner understood if a child wasn’t ready to move on from long division, and patiently went over the subject as long as it took."

Replace the robot with today's interactive online learning environments and add in the value of a classroom teacher as coach, facilitator and motivator and you get the individualised, self-paced learning environment that the children in the survey unwittingly wish for. However, although that vision is perfectly achievable today it is being thwarted by the strong counter-movement in many countries towards more standardised, national exams, school league tables based on test scores and a reinforcement of traditional class-based teaching. The big question is whether we can find ways of enabling individualised, self-paced learning as well as being able to provide credible qualifications. Somewhere between the two extremes there is a path.

Photo: AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by Valerie Everett

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