Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Can We Talk? - re: Robot Teachers

Can we talk?.....................

It has finally happened. A proposal to replace teachers has come along.

According to the news ‘In Tokyo, Japan a robot has been made. But the developer says it's not about to replace human instructors.

Her name is Saya and she can express six basic emotions — surprise, fear, disgust, anger, happiness, and sadness — because her rubber skin is being pulled from the back with motors and wiring around the eyes and the mouth. In a demonstration, the robot's mouth popped open, her eyes widened and eyebrows arched to appear surprised

According to the news article the children were amused when she called out their names. Still, she is remote-controlled by a human watching the interaction through cameras.

The idea in Japan and other nations are hopeful that robotics will provide a solution for their growing labor shortage problem as populations age. But scientists express concern about using a machine to take care of children and say more research in human-robot interaction is needed before overly relying on robots.

"The robot has no intelligence. She has no ability to learn. She has no identity," and is just a tool." says one professor. (Duh!)

That made-to-order robot will cost about 5 million yen ($51,000).

It has been said that everyone remembers their first grade teacher. Well, I'm guessing that would be especially true if your first grade teacher was a robot. Saya the robot teacher is not able to administer lessons or give individual attention to students. It may be cost effective but is this the wave of the future?

After reading the article I thought about my teachers and my days in school.
I tried to remember the names and faces of the teachers and discovered something that was quite unexpected. I could only clearly remember one of my teachers. The memories of the others are a blur. Mr. Leno, my 6th form teacher, at Pinner County School, is certainly the one who is indelibly sketched in my mind and has my grateful respect.

He was tall and slender and this was accentuated by the way he dressed. He was the only teacher that I ever had who wore his professors black gown and mortarboard to every class. He also addressed every student as Miss or Mr. and expected us all to do the same. Thus teaching us to be polite and respect him and each other.

He had a creative way of teaching mathematics and his lessons remain with me today. He would assign each student a problem in geometry and when it was our turn we would have stand and look at the problem that was written on the chalkboard. We then had to solve the problem by saying each move out loud whilst staring at a blank board. I can remember protesting and saying that I just was not able to do it. He was relentless and insisted that I could. I can still remember feeling as if the cobwebs in my brain were moving out of the way, and it actually felt painful to make my brain work so hard. But guess what? All of the students finally managed to solve the math problems in our heads without writing down a single number and I can still do this today. Sometimes when people observe me adding up triple digit numbers in my head they are surprised. Mr. Leno taught me how to do it.

Another lesson we learned was not so pleasant but never forgotten. I remember (with shame) that we had a substitute teacher one day. She was young, obviously nervous and we were probably her first class. She had a mop of bright red, curly hair. Young children seem to have radar for identifying the vulnerable and collectively we decided to give her a hard time. When she attempted to teach us, all of the students started mumbling ‘blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah” and we refused to let her get her message out. She eventually ran out of the class crying. Leaving us all stunned and wondering what to do now that we were without a teacher in front of us.

The following day Mr. Leno stormed into the classroom and slammed the door shut behind him. His black gown was blowing in the breeze and he was furious.
He shouted out “Scum of the earth!” and in his rage, proceeded to tell us how ashamed he was of us and how disrespectful we had been to the substitute teacher. It was a scene that I have never forgotten and I will eternally feel ashamed of our collective behavior on that day. Trust me, it never happened again!

Now I ask you, to think back to your memories of your teachers. Was it a lesson in life skills, a compliment, a warm smile or hug? How could one ever have such memories from a robot teacher? A robot cannot be that kind of inspirational role model.

Also, the robot teacher has to have someone behind the scenes viewing the class in order to press the buttons to change her facial expressions (shades of Big Brother here). What is the point if she has to have the Wizard behind the curtain who is operating her?

A grateful thanks to those who were my teachers and also, to my friends who are educators. You each bring a unique quality to teaching and you love what you do. Thank you. You deserve to be recognized as being compassionate human beings and, I am sure, you hope that one day at least one student will say, “Yes, I remember that teacher very well………”

Can we talk? Here is my personal opinion - No, no, no! No to robots!

1 comment:

Karima said...

i'm voting with you....robots?...NO!!!!!....

i remember ALL of my elementary school teachers....
kindergarten: ms. baumgarten,--old, white hair, taught us how to sing; grade 1: miss nelson,--african american, young, very pretty, always wore white blouses; grade 2: miss klein,-- stern, stiff, no fun; grade 3: mrs. gannon,--i loved to hear her reading stories to us; grade 4: miss wright/mrs. dorsey: got married while we were with her,-- she seemd to know everything! i loved her!; grade 5: mrs. herman,--i felt sorry for her....the BIG boys made her cry; grade 6: miss ernst,-- the busty blonde....very tall....bright red lips and long red nails....always traveling to exotic places and bringing back stuff for us poor ghetto kids to covet.....i'll never forget a huge aquamarine ring she wore, returning from mexico; grade 7: mr. cram...the alcoholic who was replaced by miss joyce wilson,--my hero! of my role models!; grade 8: mrs. whetstone: bright red curly hair with BIG blue eyes that seemed to pop out of her head....she taught me how to write and how to study....

in high school there were a few who stayed in my memory bank....algebra teacher: miss bossman, who brought me from 75 to 100 on the final....french teacher: mr. bellinger: perfect hair, perfect clothes, perfectly unsuited for high school teaching.....Mrs. Ora Curry: taught american history and advised "future teachers of america".....became my mentor when i started teaching....what a supa-star!

after abandoning my dream of being an actor, i decided that i would become a teacher......all of those listed above touched me deeply,-- showing me how to be a good teacher and also showing me what NOT to do.....

recently i ran into my high school homeroom teacher.....back in the day she was a sad, little woman,-- recently divorced with 4 teenage she lives in florida with husband #2 and she is VERY goes on.....