Maybe one day when people are talking about robots in the classroom they will be referring to walking, talking automated robots strolling up and down the aisles asking “What is 2+2?” with a ruler in tow, ready to swat unruly students. Maybe these robo-teachers will fire off preprogrammed jokes and gauge the joke’s success via sensors and a complex algorithm. And perhaps students will email image files of shiny red apples to get in the good graces of these robotic teacher.
This, however, is not very likely, and it’s not what people are talking about when they discuss robots in education.
We aren’t implementing humanoid robots in classrooms at the moment (not quite anyway), and this really isn’t the best way to bring robots into education. Humans are better than robots at some things, and robots and software are better than humans at other things. To try and make a robot that does something in the same way that humans do is counter-productive.
We didn’t build industrial machinery to mimic human workers. If we had, our factory machines would get sick, take breaks, and get paid by the hour. They would be slower, less precise, and less efficient. Instead, we designed industrial robots to do the same types of tasks as humans, but to do them in a way that capitalizes on the advantages of automation.
This same sensibility is being applied to robots in education. We’re not using automation to make robots that can act like human teachers. We’re instead bringing automation and robotics to classrooms in a way that makes the best use of technology and most benefits students.
Computer programs are already replacing teachers in high schools and universities. There are college level math courses being taught entirely through the use of software and computer programs.
That’s not the only way in which automation and robotics are being brought into classrooms. There are classes that teach coding, programming, electronics, and robotics. In these classes, students learn about software, building robots, and programming robots.
Sure, it’s a little disappointing that we won’t have corny teacher jokes told to us in a robotic monotone, but we will have robots in classrooms all the same.