The Board of Education and Administration of Holland Elementary School have agreed on a decision that will come into effect at the beginning of the Fall 2013 school year. As well as introducing many of our newly acquired teachers to the classrooms, we will also introduce a new artificial intelligence that our students have never experienced before. This will come in the form of robotic instructors who will assist our current teachers with their work and teach other lessons on their own. This may come as a shock to some, but I am extremely confident in this decision. Artificial intelligence coming to the classroom this year will have a positive impact on our school system with increased teaching strategy to achieve a higher level of learning.
Robots with artificial intelligence teaching students in the classroom is something that may seem to some like a science fiction fantasy, but the reality of the matter is that robotic helpers, teachers, and playmates are part of a booming technology that has already started flourishing in other countries. Articles from the New York Times have informed us on the hundreds of robots South Korea has already hired to assist teachers, and teach certain subjects on their own (Benedict Carey and John Markoff Students, Meet Your New Teacher, Mr. Robot Para 10). The robots they use are usually computer screened faces with bodies that have arms and legs, allowing them to be entirely mobile on their own. The robots use motion tracking and speech recognition to act human like. This makes them able to engage people in conversation, play games, complete simple tasks, and teach simple skills to others (Carey and Markoff Para 8).
Adam Sneed, a researcher for The Future Tense Program explains in his article Coming Soon to a Kindergarten Classroom: Robot Teachers how robots give realistic human-like responses to social cues given by people in their surroundings (Para 6). They also understand the concept of personal space, and when approaching people, they know to stop before anyone’s personal space is invaded (Carey and Markoff, Para 19). The robots are programmed to act as if they have feelings similar to those of children. If the robot is damaged purposely by the students, it will begin to cry. Children react to this by feeling very sorry and backing off right away. If the robot continues to cry, the students offer it peace as they would with another child. Experiments that have shown this in the past are a display of the strong bond students can make with the robots (Carey and Markoff Para 25). Robots with artificial intelligence can engage children through many ways that are subconscious to humans.
They hold eye contact with the children and use physical rhythm to stay involved with them. For example, if a child is swaying from side to side, the robot will start to sway as well. The robots mirror the children as a game to connect with them, gain their friendship, and build a sense of trust. If a student lifts his or her arm, the robot will lift their arm as well. The robots will also play vise-versa, letting the children mimic their moves (Carey and Markoff Para 4). Robots also show a large understanding of tasks that are explained to them. In a study done at the Georgia Institute of Technology, a robot was told where certain objects belong in a classroom and then was instructed to put them all away. When the robot came across a toy that it was unsure about, it stared at the toy in hesitation to pick it up. The robot’s instructor asked if it had any questions, and the robot replied by asking where the toy belongs. When it was explained that the green toy belongs in the green bin, the robot nodded its head, put the toy in the bin, and said “makes sense” (Carey and Markoff Para 45-47).
This is an example of how the robots that will be incorporated into our classrooms can expand their knowledge and learn from the students to help them improve their teaching. Artificial intelligence is such a large benefit to our students because of all the good teaching qualities the robots have been programmed with that not all human teachers possess. These qualities include encouraging, non-judgmental, infinitely patient, and comforting. Our robots would never get mad at a student for something, and they will never yell at a student or make his or her feel bad for thinking incorrectly. James Marshall Crotty, co-founder/peripatetic publisher of Monk Magazine has recorded in his article Why Kids Prefer Robots to Teachers and Parents that students feel more welcomed and accepted because of this, allowing them to feel more room for guilt-free error. This will eliminate the social boundaries that often keep students from being creative so they will be able to be themselves with much more confidence and learn in a more proficient mind set (Forbes Para 7).
Robots are able to detect when children are not engaged in the learning, and they are also able to understand signals that children subconsciously put out when they are confused or have a question they are waiting to ask, in which case the robot would offer them the chance to ask their question (Carey and Markoff Para 52). These are all very important skills that are necessary for an instructor to have. The new robots will be an extraordinary help to our special education program which includes mostly students with Attention Deficit Disorder and Autism. Sneed explains how robots will help our students learn social and cognitive skills in a way that is less intimidating to them than through human contact.
At times when children with Autism are shy and will not communicate with other people, the robots are able to bring them out of their shell and teach them social skills (Para 5). The robots also provide the students with certain therapies that help their disabilities such as repetitive tasks and imitation. The robots are able to keep any student on task just as efficiently, if not more than human teachers, which is something that will benefit everyone (Carey and Markoff Para 20). Robots are especially good at teaching subjects such as foreign language. In a study performed at the University of Southern California, a robot was used to teach the Finnish language to a group of preschool students.
It would pick up objects and say what they were in Finnish, and use productive teaching strategies such as games and repetition to help the children retain the information. When the study was finished, all of the words taught by the robot were significantly imbedded into the children’s memories, while the words they learned from multimedia tapes or other sources were not embedded well at all. This is due to the cognitive engagement, patience, and encouragement the robots provide for the preschoolers. Many different experiments such as this one show that robots’ teaching strategies impact students at about the same level as human teaching strategies (Carey and Markoff Para 21-24).
Experiments are performed all over the world by many different specialists who study robotics, and anyone can see, their data concludes that artificial intelligence has a positive influence on the learning levels in a classroom. Specialists have also taken into account the feelings of children who have had the opportunity for artificial intelligence to become a part of their lives. Studies reported by Crotty show that a majority of students are pleased to have a robot to study and play with (Para 2). Robots are able to make games out of children’s homework, and the knowledge they gain from their assignments is portrayed as fun, giving them incentive to get their work done as well as possible. This is very helpful, especially for children who are discouraged in school and have low self-efficacy (Crotty Para 4).
The robots are viewed by the children as friends and as very helpful companions. A quote from an article by Rendeiro Fonesca in United Academics Magazine brings us into the life of a boy who had artificial intelligence assisting him at home as well as in school: When I get home, my robot helps me with my homework. My mother and father came in and said no video games now, homework first, but when they saw that I was already finished and had done everything correctly, they were glad that I had made friends with the robot. It could do everything—play soccer, build Legos, read, do math, write, and all the movements a person can make. Since my parents really are always at work a lot, they can’t always help me or play with me or cook something. Now the robot helps them with that.” —Boy, 9, Germany. (Fonseca Robots in the Classroom Para 4)
According to this article, children see their robots as reassuring, helpful, encouraging, and as a very big influence to help them with their learning. They often feel more comfortable being their true selves around the robots than they do with a teacher they are unfamiliar with, which helps to be creative in their work when the robots are around (Fonseca Para 10). They also encourage children to be proud of themselves, which gives them incentive to show their parents and human teachers how well they are doing with the instruction given by the robots (Crotty Para 6).
While we understand that robots teaching children in the classroom is viewed as unnatural by many, we ask for your cooperation to please understand the significant advancement in technology that has occurred in the past ten years. In Crotty’s article, he also explains how technology is viewed through the eyes of children as something very human. It is a major part of our culture, and young students don’t know of any life deprived of the conveniences technology has given us (Para 4). Robots seem strange and unfamiliar to us, but every new technology appears this way when it is first introduced.
The introduction of artificial intelligence to the Frenchtown Elementary School District will lower our budget by decreasing the amount we will be paying in teacher salary. It will bring new learning opportunities to our children, open up a new kind of culture into our lives, and provide excellent assistance to our special education teachers, as well as general classroom lessons. With this addition to our curriculum, the administration hopes to achieve higher state testing scores, and higher overall levels of learning and motivation.
Carey, Benedict, and John Markoff. “Students, Meet Your New Teacher, Mr. Robot.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 11 July 2010. Web. 26 Oct. 2012
Crotty, James Marshall. “Why Kids Prefer Robots To Teachers And Parents.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 03 Feb. 2012. Web. 26 Oct. 2012.
Fonseca Rendeiro, Mark. “Robots in the Classroom.” United Academics: Connect Science and Society. UA Magazine, 22 Jan. 2012. Web. 26 Oct. 2012.
Sneed, Adam. “Coming Soon to a Kindergarten Classroom: Robot Teachers.” Slate. The Slate Group, 6 Aug. 2012. Web. 26 Oct. 2012.