Robots have become an intricate part of our lives, so it’s no surprise that they are now being prepared to enter the classrooms as teachers of young children. Currently, researchers at MIT and Yale are focusing on improving the social cues like intonation, gestures, and facial expressions, of robots to make them more likable to children.
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key.
Excerpt: Coming Soon to a Kindergarten Classroom: Robot Teachers, By Adam Sneed, Slate Magazine
“We’ve been promised for years that robots will soon move from factories into our everyday lives (maybe even white-collar offices), and yet so far, the closest thing we have to Rosie Jetson is the Roomba. In addition to dexterity and the ability to walk, one of the biggest hurdles to personal robotics has been human-machine interaction. For a machine to enter human space, it has to understand certain niceties.(You don’t want a robot chef that can’t tell if you gag when you take a bite of its food, do you?)
And if a robot with social skills can be built, it could have a huge effect on our classrooms. An ideal social robot responds not just to what you say, but to how you say it—factoring in social cues like intonation, gestures, and facial expressions. The robot can then respond with appropriate body language. We take this kind of interaction for granted in science fiction—with C-3PO, for example.
We like treating robots as though they are people. Even with today’s simplest robots, researchers have seen study participants give their machines names and carry on one-sided conversations with them. Compare that to the ambivalence people feel about their computer screens (and no, you do not literally love your smartphone) and it’s easy to see the potential for robots to keep people engaged.
Our affinity for robots also appears to affect how we learn from them. Researchers at Yale recently found that people doing cognitive tasks like logic puzzles … learn more effectively when guided by a physical robot than they do with the same help from an on-screen avatar.
The study doesn’t draw conclusions as to why the physical robot was a more effective teacher than its on-screen version, but one guess is that the physical presence of a teaching robot lends it a degree of authority that participants didn’t sense from the digital instructors.
A National Science Foundation project led by Scassellati, Breazeal and USC professor Maja Mataric aims to push these limits. The team is working to develop robots that can help children with disabilities learn social and cognitive skills. In order to carry out meaningful interactions, though, these robots have to be able to learn on their own so they can understand an individual’s personality traits and social cues.
Juyang Weng, co-founder of Michigan State University’s Embodied Intelligence Laboratory, is studying how robotic learning and cognitive development can look more like human learning in order to strengthen the connection between children and robot teachers…Eventually if a robot can develop its mind, then the robot can be a very close friend of a child,Weng says. The robot can be a teacher in a very fundamental way.”
Level: Low Intermediate -High Intermediate
Language Skills: Reading, writing, speaking and listening. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours
Materials: Student handouts (from this lesson) access to news article, and video.
Objective: Students will read the article with a focus on new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through discussions, and writing. The language skills practiced will be reading, writing, speaking and listening.
I. Pre-Reading Tasks
Analyzing headings and photos
Directions: Have students use this Pre-reading organizer by Scholastic to assist them in finding the main ideas from the reading.
II. While Reading Tasks
Directions: Have students use the Word organizer from Enchanted Learning to assist them with new vocabulary.
- Robots will soon move from factories into our everyday lives, maybe even white-collar offices.
- In addition to dexterity and the ability to walk robots will do more tasks.
- An ideal social robot responds not just to what you say, but to how you say it.
- Factoring in social cues like intonation, gestures, and facial expressions robots will appear more human.
- The ambivalence people feel about their computer screens is amusing.
- Our affinity for robots also appears to affect how we learn from them.
- Researchers at Yale recently found that people doing cognitive tasks like logic puzzles are more open to robots.
- The study doesn’t draw conclusions as to why the physical robot was a more effective teacher than its on-screen version.
- A teaching robot lends the screen a degree of authority.
- Creating artificial intelligence… will set a new standard for interactive educational technologies.
Directions: Students are to complete the sentences from the article by selecting the correct words or phrases.
1. An ideal social robot responds not just to what you say, but to
a- how you say it.
b-the tone you use.
c-how you spell it.
2. The robot can then respond with appropriate
3. We like treating robots as though they are
a- mechanical friends
4. Our affinity for robots also appears to affect how
a-we create them.
b- we learn from them.
c-we gather information from them.
5. The way we divide the world between animate and inanimate objects plays a major role in how
a- we learn.
b- we create robots.
c- we choose robots.
6. The team is working to develop robots that can help children
a- learn their alphabet.
b- learn how to sing.
c- with disabilities learn social and cognitive skills.
7. In order to carry out meaningful interactions, though, these robots have to be able to learn
a-on their own.
b- through a computer.
c- from a reader.
8.Traditional robots, even ones used in education, aren’t really
9. Eventually if a robot can develop___then the robot can be a very close friend of a child,
10. But moving social robots from science fiction to reality promises to be a powerful force for ___.
Identifying Parts of Speech
Directions: Students are to identify the nouns in the following paragraph, then use as many of the terms as possible to write their own paragraph concerning robots.
“We’ve been promised for years that robots will soon move from factories into our everyday lives (maybe even white-collar offices), and yet so far, the closest thing we have to Rosie Jetson is the Roomba. In addition to dexterity and the ability to walk, one of the biggest hurdles to personal robotics has been human-machine interaction. For a machine to enter human space, it has to understand certain niceties.(You don’t want a robot chef that can’t tell if you gag when you take a bite of its food, do you?)”
III. Post Reading Tasks
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. After, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the discussion topics.
- How would you react to a robot teaching your classes? Would you feel comfortable? Explain why or why not.
- Do you think that young children would feel comfortable with a robot as a teacher? Provide reasons for your answer.
- Should robot teachers get a salary the same as non-robot teachers? Explain why or why not.
- Can you think of any reasons why robots should “not” be introduced into the classroom? Provide examples.
IV. Listening Activity
Video Clip: Japanese School Tests Robot Teacher
Introduction: “Students at the Kudan Elementary School in downtown Tokyo were told a special teacher would help them with their science class.”
While Listening Exercise
Directions: Students are to choose the correct response from the ones provided from the video.
1. But few [children] expected the teacher would need___ to help her up to the podium.
a- another teacher.
b-three grown men.
c- a fork-lift.
2. Saya, the substitute teacher, is a___ .
b- computer screen.
3. Built by Professor Hiroshi Kobayashi of Tokyo University of Science, he says she’s not meant to___.
a- talk to the children.
b- be a baby-sitter.
c- take away the jobs of teachers.
4. Saya may be able to help in schools where___
a- there are many children.
b- there is a shortage of teachers.
c- technology training is needed.
5. “… in some small schools, there are children who do not have the opportunity to come into contact with___
a- new technology.
6. Most students were___by the robot.
7. One student remarked that “ “Its so much more fun than____
a- playing sports.”
8. Another student said that “ “It was great seeing the robot___
b- moving and speaking.”
c- asking questions.”
9. But the class teacher was not convinced Saya was ___
a-to play with the children.
b- stand on her own.
c-ready to go full time.
10. The___of the children did not stop after the class.
Directions: With your group members, make up questions that you would like to ask the speakers.
ANSWER KEY-Teacher robots.