Category Archives: Technology

SpaceX Falcon: A Roar of Thunder… A Serious Milestone!

“From the same pad where NASA launched rockets that carried astronauts to the moon, a big, new American rocket arced into space on Tuesday. But this time, NASA was not involved. The rocket, the Falcon Heavy, was built by SpaceX, the company founded and run by the billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk. The launch of this turbocharged version of the workhorse Falcon 9 rocket, which has been carrying cargo to space for years, marks an important milestone in spaceflight, the first time a rocket this powerful has been sent into space by a private company rather than a government space agency.” K. Chang, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Excerpt: Falcon Heavy, in a Roar of Thunder, Carries SpaceX’s Ambition Into Orbit-By Kenneth Chang, The New York Times

“The rocket carried a playful payload: Mr. Musk’s red Roadster, an electric sports car built by his other company, Tesla. Strapped inside the car is a mannequin wearing one of SpaceX’s spacesuits. They are expected to orbit the sun for hundreds of millions of years.

Front view from Tesla Roadster on Falcon X Heavy. Credit Daily Express

Side view a Tesla Sports Car Flying Through Space Credit- PetaPixel

The success gives SpaceX momentum to begin developing even larger rockets, which could help fulfill Mr. Musk’s dream of sending people to Mars. To do that, he has described a new-generation rocket called B.F.R. (the B stands for big; the R for rocket) that might be ready to launch in the mid-2020s. The Falcon Heavy’s maiden flight makes pursuit of the goal more plausible.

Elon Musk’s space company launched the most powerful rocket in operation.Credit-Todd Anderson for The New York Times

Mr. Musk’s visions include humans living both on Earth and Mars. He’s part of a new generation of entrepreneurial space pioneers that includes Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder of Amazon, who has said one of the goals driving his rocket company, Blue Origin, is the prospect of millions of people living in space. Planetary Resources, an American company with a large investment from Luxembourg, hopes to mine asteroids for profit. Moon Express, based in Florida, sees a business in providing regular transportation to and from the moon.

For now, the Heavy will enable SpaceX to compete for contracts to launch larger spy satellites, and some experts in spaceflight are encouraging NASA to use private rockets like the Heavy instead of the gigantic and more expensive rocket, the Space Launch System, that is currently being developed in part to take astronauts back to the moon… Just over three minutes after it blasted off, the most suspenseful part of the flight was over, as the boosters dropped off and the second stage continued into Earth orbit.

Two of the boosters land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station after the launch of SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. Photo- Space.com

Some eight minutes after launch, a pair of sonic booms rocked the area as the two side boosters set down in near synchrony on two landing pads at Cape Canaveral…Once in orbit, the rocket sent back video of the spacesuit-wearing mannequin in the car, with a hand on the steering wheel…In the past year, SpaceX has tabled many of the plans for future development of the Heavy. The company had intended to use the rocket launch one of SpaceX’s capsules, known as the Dragon, without people, on a mission to land on Mars. That was scrapped last summer. Last year, Mr. Musk also said two space tourists would be launched by a Falcon Heavy on an around-the-moon trip this year.

On Monday, he said that for now the company had no immediate plans to make the improvements needed before putting people aboard. Instead, SpaceX is focusing its efforts on the B.F.R. It would be a two-stage rocket: a powerful booster to provide lift out of Earth’s gravity and then a spaceship on top for interplanetary missions.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. NASA has launched rockets in the past.
  2. Astronauts have already been to the moon.
  3. Elon Musk, a well known entrepreneur founded Space X.
  4. Strapped inside the car was  a mannequin wearing one of SpaceX’s spacesuits.
  5. Mr. Musk’s visions include humans living both on Earth and Mars.
  6. Some eight minutes after launch, a pair of sonic booms rocked the area.
  7. The success of the Heavy could quell criticism that followed SpaceX’s first launch of the year.
  8. SpaceX officials vociferously asserted that the Falcon 9 performed as expected.
  9. The development of the Heavy took years longer than anticipated.
  10. Mr. Musk said he had aspirational hopes to begin suborbital tests of the spaceship portion next year.

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

The Falcon___is capable of___140,000___ to low-Earth orbit, more than any othertoday. Because all three ___are to be recovered to fly again, a Falcon Heavy launch costs not much more than one by the company’s___rocket, Mr. Musk said. ___lists a price of $90___for a Falcon Heavy flight, compared with $62 million for one by Falcon 9, a bargain in the context of spaceflight. ___has booked ___Heavy flights for Arabsat, a Saudi Arabian communications company, and the United States Air Force.

WORD LIST: upcoming, SpaceX,  existing, rocket, million,  lifting, SpaceX, Heavy, boosters,  pounds,

 Grammar Focus: Prepositions

Directions: The following sentences are from the news article.  For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.

Prepositions:  in, for, of, with, by,  on, at, to, as, into, across, around, over,  through, from, during, up, off,

Although delayed___ high-altitude winds, the countdown proceeded smoothly,___ any ___the glitches that have bedeviled other maiden launches___new rockets.

The Heavy roared ___life, a plume___smoke and steam shooting sideways ___the launchpad. It rose___the pad, with an impossibly bright glare ___27 engines___ it. Then a thunderous roar, traveling___the speed___sound, rolled ___ the spectators.

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

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?

Discussion Questions

Directions: Place students in groups Have each group list 3  questions they would like to ask any person mentioned in the article. Groups share questions as a class and try to answer them.

Group Project

How to Make a Water Rocket Launcher From NASA

Students can use simple tools to construct a soda bottle rocket launcher using  hardware and wood. Go to  Nasa.gov

ANSWER KEY

Category: Technology | Tags: ,

School Supplies Now Include Bullet Proof Backpacks!

“Florida Christian School in Miami put a few order forms on its website to make school supply shopping easier. Parents can purchase their children T-shirts bearing the school’s logo or some snugly winter wear. Or, for $120, they can buy them bullet-resistant panels designed to slip into their backpacks in case of a school shooting.” T. Andrews, The Washington Post
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

This Florida School Is Selling Bulletproof Panels For Students’ Backpacks. Fort Smith:Fayetteville News

Excerpt: Florida school lets parents buy bulletproof panels for students to put in backpacks -By Travis Andrews, The Washington Post

“The nondenominational kindergarten through 12th grade school hasn’t been the scene of any gun violence, but its private security wants to be prepared just in case. The panel is a ‘tool’ to help protect children in case of a horrific event, just like its sound-enabled surveillance cameras and active shooter drills, according to George Gulla, the school’s head of security.

The school in Miami. (Screengrab Google Maps)

‘I’d rather be prepared for the worst than be stuck after saying Wow, I wish we would’ve done that,’ Gulla told the Miami Herald.

The panel comes from Applied Fiber Concepts, a body armor company based in nearby Hialeah and owned by Al Cejas, who has two children at the school. He attended one of Gulla’s active shooting drills last year and suggested the company make custom armor plates for students.

Al Cejas poses with a bulletproof backpack insert, in Miami.

‘While books and stuff in your backpack may stop a bullet, they’re not designed to,’ Cejas told the Miami Herald. ‘I wouldn’t bet my life on it.’

The slim panels, which weigh less than a pound, can slip easily in the students’ backpacks among their school books. They’re reportedly able to protect students from bullets such as a .44 Magnum or a .357 SIG, both pistol cartridges.

Bullet Blocker Survival Magazine

Stopping rifle bullets would require heavier armor…His company isn’t the only business marketing bulletproof “accessories” to schools in the aftermath of mass shootings across the county. Bullet Blocker, a Massachusetts company, began developing a range of products after the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007 that left 32 dead.

The focus isn’t only on backpacks. For instance, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore purchased hundreds of bulletproof whiteboards in 2013, as did the Minnesota Rocori School District, where a shooting left two students dead in 2003. For Florida Christian School… Gulla thinks the option to buy the backpack inserts might calm some parents.

Florida Christian School, a K-12 school in Miami-Dade, offered parents the opportunity to buy a $120 bulletproof backpack insert as a security tool. Miami Herald

‘We thought, yeah, let’s offer it to anyone who wants it,’ he told the Miami Herald. It’s not required. But if it gives you extra peace of mind.’ It’s out of the norm, but what is the norm?”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming

Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about  the topic.  Next, have students look at the picture(s) in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article. Debrief as a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.

Brainstorming chart by UIE copy

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Nearly all students use backpacks.
  2. Schools want to protect  their students.
  3. There are also binder inserts to place among loose-leaf paper.
  4. Colleges began using the backpacks after the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007.
  5. The company’s products include bulletproof backpacks, fleeces, and  briefcases.
  6. Bullet Blocker saw a spike in bulletproof backpack sales.
  7. One university purchased hundreds of bulletproof whiteboards in 2013.
  8. There are writing tablets that double as bulletproof shields.
  9. The idea behind bulletproof backpacks is that students can use them as shields.
  10. Some are decrying the sale of bulletproof items in schools.

Reading Comprehension

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

The panel/pane comes from Applied Fiber Concepts, a body arm/armor company based/biased in nearby Hialeah and owned by Al Cejas, who has two/too children at the school. He attendance/attended one of Gulla’s active/activity shooting drones/drills last year and suggested the company make custom/costume armor plates for students.

Grammar Focus: Prepositions

Directions: The following sentences are from the news article.  For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.

Prepositions:  in, for, of, with, by,  on, at, to, as, into, across, around, over,  through, from, during, up, off,

While books and stuff___your backpack may stop a bullet, they’re not designed___.

The kindergarten through 12th grade school hasn’t been the scene___any gun violence.

The panel is a tool ___help protect children___ case ___a horrific event.

There are  binder inserts ___place___loose-leaf paper.

Main Idea / Debate

Directions: Divide students into  two teams for this debate. Both teams can use the article  as their source of information or sources from the Web.

Team A will list five reasons for bullet proof backpacks.

Team B will list  five reasons against bullet proof backpack

Each team will have time to state their points of view,  and the teacher decides which team made their points.  

For organization, have students use this great Pros and Cons Scale organizer  from Freeology

Visual Art Project

Directions: Students can create graphs, pictures, collages, or models to demonstrate their understanding of the topic.  They can do this individually or in groups.

Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

Access to Scary Films Just Got Better!

“As the old saying goes, ’tis the season for screamin’. But what if you like your scares year-round? Lucky for you, we’re in an age of niche streaming services like Shudder, which specializes in suspense, thrillers and horror movies and TV shows.” M.  Castillo, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post  with Answer Key

Alice Lowe in “Prevenge.”Shudder Films

Excerpt: Love Scary Movies? Shudder Lets You Stream Them Year-Round, By Monica Castillo, The New York Times

“Shudder, from AMC Networks, provides movies that range from gruesome to campy, from silent to chain-saw loud, from low budget to no budget. There’s also a healthy collection of foreign horror films and TV, like the cruel and torturous ‘Audition’ from Japan, the terrifying Spanish zombie movie ‘[Rec],’ the Japanese series ‘Penance’ and the Swedish series ‘Jordskott.’ If you’re daunted by the sheer number of titles, then look into Shudder’s easy-to-browse collections, like their films about the apocalypse or women-led horror movies. That should also help you weed out some of the more lurid and trashy movies on Shudder, which may not be of interest. Not sure where to start? Here are a few suggestions:

Classic Creepers

Shudder treated its subscribers to a collection of classic Universal Monsters movies:

Dracula’ (1931)

Bela Lugosi as Dracula (1931)-Universal Pictures

‘Frankenstein’ (1931)

Boris Karloff-Frankenstein (1931) Film Society of Lincoln Center

‘Bride of Frankenstein’ (1935)

Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, 1935.

‘The Mummy’ (1932)

Boris Karloff as The Mummy 1932

‘The Wolf Man’ (1941)

 ‘The Invisible Man'(1933)

Claude Rains and Gloria Stuart in “The Invisible Man.”Universal Pictures

 You don’t even see the Invisible Man (Claude Rains) for most of the movie. Rains’ smooth voice is your only guide through the tragic downfall of an overambitious scientist and his insistence on injecting himself with a serum that makes him both invisible and unstable…

In the ’50s and ’60s, the director, producer and all-around showman William Castle frequently packaged his horror movies with some kind of a theatrical gimmick to help sell tickets. For his 1959 monster movie, ‘The Tingler,’ he added devices that would shake theater seats in an attempt to scare audience members into believing the monster was loose…

Vincent Price in The Tingler. Columbia Pictures

This early adaptation of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ changed the names of the book’s main characters and features a vampire who looks closer to a bat than a charming count.

International Scares

The Devil’s Backbone

Guillermo del Toro seems to have affection for misunderstood monsters — That sense of empathy is also present in his earlier movies, like  ‘The Devil’s Backbone.’ In that film, a boy is sent to an oppressive Catholic orphanage during the Spanish Civil War, where he discovers the supernatural presence of a lost soul. This lonely story is not as scary as it is sad.

‘Battle Royale’

Years before ‘The Hunger Games,’ there was this berserk Japanese movie, first released overseas in 2000. To punish society’s ever unruly adolescents, the government sends an armed group of students into an arena to kill one another until only one child remains A dark sense of humor drips from “Battle Royale,” especially during the preposterously violent death scenes.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Level: Intermediate -Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing and speaking. 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 reading comprehension and new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through discussions, and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Tasks

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Tasks

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. We’re in an age of niche streaming services
  2. The service provides movies that range from gruesome to campy.
  3. Some people are daunted by the sheer number of titles.
  4. The new process should help fans weed out some of the more lurid films.
  5. Shudder also has an app for all major streaming devices.
  6. The article provides a few suggestions.
  7. You can also pay for multiple streaming services.
  8. Many movies have a a theatrical gimmick to help sell tickets.
  9. Many of the movie experiences can’t be replicated at home.
  10. The film’s director uses the exaggerated shadows of  monsters to scare people.

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

Shudder ___are ___in the United States for $4.99 a month or $47.88 a year, and in Canada, Britain and___at locally adjusted prices. A ___app is available on all major streaming___.

WORD LIST: Ireland , Shudder, devices, available, subscriptions

Grammar

Using Adjectives  to describe pictures    

Directions: Have students choose a picture from the article  and write a descriptive paragraph using adjectives.

III. Post Reading Tasks 

 Reading Comprehension Check

WH-How Questions 

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?

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them  answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. People  like to watch scary movies on Halloween. What are the scariest films you’ve seen?
  2. Have you seen any of the films mentioned in the article? what did you think of  the film?
  3. If you could choose to be a monster which one would you be? Why?
  4. Are you going to a party this year? If yes, describe your costume.
  5. How is Halloween celebrated in your country?
  6. What are some symbols of  Halloween in your country?

Extra: Web Search

Directions: In groups/partners have students search the topic on the web and see what additional information they can find. Students can either have further discussions or write an essay about the subject.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Technology | Tags:

“Life in the Age of Facial Recognition”

“The human face is a remarkable piece of work. The astonishing variety of facial features helps people recognize each other and is crucial to the formation of complex societies…Technology is rapidly catching up with the human ability to read faces. In America facial recognition is used by churches to track worshippers’ attendance; in Britain, by retailers to spot past shoplifters. This year Welsh police used it to arrest a suspect outside a football game.” The Economist

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Future of Life Institute

Excerpt: Life in the age of facial recognition  By The Economist

“In China it verifies the identities of ride-hailing drivers, permits tourists to enter attractions and lets people pay for things with a smile. Apple’s new iPhone is expected to use it to unlock the homescreenSet against human skills, such applications might seem incremental.

Some breakthroughs, such as flight or the internet, obviously transform human abilities; facial recognition seems merely to encode them. Although faces are peculiar to individuals, they are also public, so technology does not, at first sight, intrude on something that is private. And yet the ability to record, store and analyze images of faces cheaply, quickly and on a vast scale promises one day to bring about fundamental changes to notions of privacy, fairness and trust.

The Guardian

Start with privacy. One big difference between faces and other biometric data, such as fingerprints, is that they work at a distance. Anyone with a phone can take a picture for facial-recognition programs to use. FindFace, an app in Russia, compares snaps of strangers with pictures on VKontakte, a social network, and can identify people with a 70% accuracy rate. Facebook’s bank of facial images cannot be scraped by others, but the Silicon Valley giant could obtain pictures of visitors to a car showroom, say, and later use facial recognition to serve them ads for cars.

Some firms are analysing faces to provide automated diagnoses of rare genetic conditions, such as Hajdu-Cheney syndrome, far earlier than would otherwise be possible. Systems that measure emotion may give autistic people a grasp of social signals they find elusive. But the technology also threatens. Researchers at Stanford University have demonstrated that, when shown pictures of one gay man, and one straight man, the algorithm could attribute their sexuality correctly 81% of the time.

Humans managed only 61% .  In countries where homosexuality is a crime, software which promises to infer sexuality from a face is an alarming prospect.  Less violent forms of discrimination could also become common. Employers can already act on their prejudices to deny people a job. But facial recognition could make such bias routine, enabling firms to filter all job applications for ethnicity and signs of intelligence and sexuality… Moreover, such systems may be biased against those who do not have white skin, since algorithms trained on data sets of mostly white faces do not work well with different ethnicities.

Such biases have cropped up in automated assessments used to inform courts’ decisions about bail and sentencing… The basis of social interactions might change, too, from a set of commitments founded on trust to calculations of risk and reward derived from the information a computer attaches to someone’s face. Cameras will only become more common with the spread of wearable devices.

Efforts to bamboozle facial-recognition systems, from sunglasses to make-up, are already being overtaken; research from the University of Cambridge shows that artificial intelligence can reconstruct the facial structures of people in disguise. Google has explicitly turned its back on matching faces to identities, for fear of its misuse by undemocratic regimes. Other tech firms seem less picky. Amazon and Microsoft are both using their cloud services to offer face recognition; it is central to Facebook’s plans.

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions:  Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Technology can verify the identity of just about anyone.
  2. There are many breakthroughs in this field.
  3. Some facial recognition devices only encode features.
  4. There are notions of privacy, fairness and trust.
  5. One big difference between faces and other biometric data, such as fingerprints, is that they work at a distance.
  6. Governments will not want to forgo matching faces to identities.
  7. Face recognition is being used by many big tech companies.
  8. The FBI has photographs of half of America’s adult population stored in databases.
  9. Some private firms are unable to connect images and identity.
  10. Some systems may be biased against persons of color.

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: The following sentences are from the article. Choose the correct word for each blank space from the word list  or make up your own words.

People___much of their ___lives, in the___ and the courtroom as well as the___and the___reading faces, for signs of___, hostility,___ and deceit. They also ___plenty of time trying to dissimulate.

WORD LIST: spend, trust, attraction, bar, spend, bedroom, waking,  office,

 Grammar Focus

Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

Relationships might become more ration/rational, but also more transactional. Laws against discrimination can be apple/applied to an employer screening candidates’ images. Suppliers/slippers of commercial face-recognition systems might submit/submitted to audits, to demonstrate that their systems are not propagating bias unintentionally. Firms/Forms that use such technologies should be held/hold accountable. Such rules cannot alter the direction of travel, however.

III. Post Reading Activities

Finding The Main Idea

Directions:  Have students use this advanced organizer from Write Design to assist them with  discussing  or writing about  the main idea and points from the article.

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them  discuss the following statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. “China’s government keeps a record of its citizens’ faces; photographs of half of America’s adult population are stored in databases that can be used by the FBI. Law-enforcement agencies now have a powerful weapon in their ability to track criminals, but at enormous potential cost to citizens’ privacy.
  2. The face is not just a name-tag. It displays a lot of other information—and machines can read that, too.”
  3. “Eventually, continuous facial recording and gadgets that paint computerized data onto the real world might change the texture of social interactions. Dissembling helps grease the wheels of daily life.”

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

 

Category: Technology

“The Secret to a Good Robot Teacher”

“Why is educational technology such a disappointment? In recent years, parents and schools have been exposing children to a range of computer-mediated instruction, and adults have been turning to “brain training” apps to sharpen their minds, but the results have not been encouraging. A six-year research project commissioned by the Department of Education examined different cybertechnology programs across thousands of students in hundreds of schools and found little to no evidence that they improved academic performance.” D. DeSteno, C. Breazeal and P. Harris, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Photo: DailyMail

Excerpt: The Secret to a Good Robot Teacher, D. DeSteno, C. Breazeal and P. Harris, The New York Times

“Unfortunately, it appears the same goes for cognitive-training programs. Lumos Labs, the company behind Lumosity, one of the leading programs in this area, agreed to pay $2 million to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission that it misled customers with claims that Lumosity improved people’s performance in school and at work. In our view, the problem stems partly from the fact that the designers of these technologies rely on an erroneous set of assumptions about how the mind learns.

It was through other people’s testimony or through interactive discourse and exploration with them that we learned facts about our world and new ways of solving problems… To investigate the importance such social cues might play in learning from technology, we recently conducted a study with 4- to 7-year-old children from schools in Boston.

The children listened to a story read by a robot that looked like a cute plush creature with an animated face that allowed for emotional expressions and eye and mouth movements. For half the children, the robot made use of these capabilities, responding to events in the story and to the children’s answers to its questions in a manner that expressed typical social and emotional cues.

children learn from a friendly animated robot.
trendsetter.com

For the other children, the robot was “flat”: It told the same story, but didn’t emit or respond with the typically expected cues. As the children listened to the story, we measured their engagement and attention using automated software to track facial, head and eye movements.

image- Gulf News

To gauge their understanding and use of the new vocabulary words embedded in the story, we had the children retell the story to a puppet both immediately afterward and again after a four- to six-week delay. Among those children who recalled and correctly used at least one of the target vocabulary words during the immediate retelling of the story, the total number used was greater for those who listened to the expressive robot than for those who listened to the flat one…Put simply, children were not only more attentive to and motivated by a socially expressive robot, but they also processed what they learned from it more deeply…Notably, it’s not that the children liked the expressive robot more. They didn’t; we asked. Rather, it’s that the presence of social cues made the expressive robot, and therefore its information, seem more reliable and trustworthy.

The upshot of these findings is clear. If we want to use technology to help people learn, we have to provide information in the way the human mind evolved to receive it. We have to speak the mind’s language, and that includes the language not only of information but also of social cues.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions:  Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. There are many cognitive-training programs.
  2. Many erroneous assumptions were made.
  3. Today, technologies make use of virtual agents.
  4. Social cues are important in learning from technology.
  5. Good robots use emotional expressions.
  6. To gauge their understanding, the children retold the story to a puppet.
  7. Moreover, children interacted with the robots.
  8. Toward the end of the experiment, a new animal appeared.
  9. The upshot of these findings was clear.
  10. The children who liked robots showed greater levels of concentration.

Reading Comprehension

True /False/NA-Statements

Directions: Review the following statements from the reading.  If  a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is  not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they  mark  it F and provide the correct answer. 

  1. Lumosity, agreed to pay $2  thousand to settle charges.
  2. Designers of these technologies rely on an erroneous set of assumptions about how the mind learns.
  3. The human brain has evolved to take in, analyze and store information in a specific way.
  4. A study was conducted with 11- to 15-year-old children from schools in Boston.
  5. In general children responded more to the robot with the  animated face.
  6. Testers had the children retell the story to a human teacher immediately afterward.
  7. Children who interacted with the expressive robot showed greater levels of concentration.
  8. This test proved that children will grow up to like robots.
  9. Another study was conducted with  adults.
  10. According to the researchers, there’s more to learning than just listening and remembering.

 Grammar Focus

Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

Toward the end of the___, a new appeared, affording kids the ___to ask ___and learn about it. Here, 82 percent of the ___chose to seek ___about the new animal from the properly___robot as opposed to its partner. What’s more, even when both___ offered information about the new animal, the children were significantly more likely to ___the information from the ___one.

WORD LIST: expressive, experiment, expressive, information,

children, questions, opportunity, animal, believe,  robots,

III. Post Reading Activities

Finding The Main Idea

Directions:  Have students use this advanced organizer from Write Design to assist them with  discussing  or writing about  the main idea and points from the article.

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups Have each group list 3  questions they would like to ask any person mentioned in the article. Groups share questions as a class.

3-2-1-Writing

Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading,  two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.

ANSWER KEY

 

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