Robots will soon replace human teachers in our future schools and classrooms. This will be an accepted reality. Mixed Reality and AI will be a ready reckoner in our humble school syllabus. Will our existing tribe of teachers and parents allow these robots to function as teachers?
Robots replacing teachers in future classrooms
“What if I do not answer a question in class? Will our robot teacher punish us with a laser beam?” asks Malhar in a not so innocent voice.
Varad, a IX Std student from a popular boy’s school in Pune gives his take on having a robot teaching in the classroom. He says, “We would figure out a way to get the robot to Shut Down, put him on ‘Power Off’ mode and go off to play soccer.” The above statements should be taken in a humorous vein. But this would soon be a reality in our gen-next classrooms.
Modus Operandi of a Robot Teacher
The robot teachers will enter our classrooms, up to date with the latest teaching methodologies, armed with new classroom activities, monitoring the progress of each child as they teach in the classroom. The modus operandi of a robot teacher will be like a surgical strike sorting through students who have completed or forged their homework. Voices will be mechanical, reactions will be methodical and the structured responses will be a tad too boring. And this is just the beginning…”I already miss my high-school teacher, just as a visual crosses my mind!” Narcissistic tendencies would be spotted amongst college students beforehand, cyberbullying tamed and juvenile crimes averted. The robot teachers will almost have a preview of each student’s online habits and inclinations sensing their mood and psychological bent of mind.
Mixed Reality and AI in Education
These robot teachers will instantly identify the major percentage of each student’s affinity towards a particular subject, mostly through remote sensors. They will accordingly change the session plan for the whole class. Satya Nadella – CEO Microsoft talks about how mixed reality and AI in education are already foraging at a break-neck speed. Most children learn through vision and speech. Would these robot teachers be patient in dealing with children who have disabilities in learning? How would a typical class begin? Would homework be summoned through a cloud, for starters? Would the parents of ‘First Generation Learners’ be given a virtual tutorial to explain their child’s progress meter?
Haptics and Human Emotion play a major role while teaching and educating
Haptics plays an important role in the current classrooms. A pat on the back, an encouraging smile, a gentle push to reach the next milestone – these are a regular in most of our classrooms. The human touch cannot be ignored or side-lined. The motivating touch rendered by a teacher is most important, whose only aim is to make sure each of her students excels in his or her field of choice. Each student looks up to his teacher for approval, for inspiration, for knowledge, for mentoring. Would students consider these new robot teachers as something of a joke or would they be able to learn something substantial from them? We have robots who have been programmed to act and think like humans. Would we be able to do the same with these robot teachers? Would a robot teacher understand that a certain child is having a bad day at school and be empathetic towards him? Sensitivity would hopefully not be frowned upon.
Come 2018 and robotic innovations like cuddly robots, robots with an attitude, robotic dogs like Sony’s Aibo, Hyundai’s Nexo – a self-driving SUV which uses voice commands and artificial intelligence have already taken precedence in the news feeds. Most recently, we have robotic babies who help us study how dust affects babies, according to a study by a Purdue University. Robotic suitcases which follow you around and Amazon’s latest cashier-less store in Seattle are not to be left behind.
Enter Sophia – Saudi Arabia’s first robot citizen
Last year, on 27th December 2017, students of IIT Bombay had the privilege of hosting a saree clad AI infused Sophia – Saudi Arabia’s first robot citizen at their TechFest. In her interview, she says, “She wants to make a difference in the future!” When asked, “How do you learn things? She does a flip take and answers,” What are your opinions on the bitcoin bubble?” which emits a laugh from the interviewer. She does get full marks on answering that she is a robot and technically she has no gender but she loves the fact that she perceives herself as a woman. She takes time in answering questions quite akin to swirling a sip of wine to understand its essence; she blinks her eyes often and answers to the best of her altruistic purpose in life.
Comparisons between a human teacher and a robot teacher
At some point, haven’t we all gone back to our schools to meet some of our teachers? We wish our children had the same teachers who taught us in school, only because we think they were the best. We reminiscence about the good old days when we had fun, both indoors and outdoors of classrooms with and without our teachers. In the present day, we admonish the current lot of teachers! We talk about education literally going to the dogs, but would we be ready to accept a robot teacher teaching our children in place of human teachers? Or would we keep reflecting on the past and remember how a favorite teacher back then helped us to solve one tricky Math problem with the help of mnemonics. Comparisons and expectations would be numerous. This would be a breakthrough of sorts. Go ponder.
The views and opinions expressed in the above article are the writer’s own.
*Images are for representation value only