The Robot Revolution

I attended a talk recently, where the presenter discussed a futuristic scenario in which they envisioned robots replacing humans in the classroom. This suggestion made me think about the automation of learning, the ways in which machines may be used to mimic humans, and the impact this will have on those potentially being replaced.

In an article in the New York Times in 2010, ‘Engkey’ the Korean classroom robot is described as a way for school children to learn English. Correcting their pronunciation, creators of Engkey hope in a few years he/she will be able to replace native English-speaking teachers altogether.

However, in films and television shows, robots are often portrayed as an unreliable replacement for the human, going beyond their programmed duties. One recent example of this is in the film Prometheus, in which David the Robot, unbeknownst to his crew members, makes choices which produce less than desirable results for his crew members.

Whilst I’m not suggesting that these classroom robots will begin endangering the lives of students or teaching them poor English, I am now thinking about how these kinds of machines may be received in the classroom, and how the student experience may change if these kinds of machines are going to be a desirable and more cost effective way to educate people.