There have been concerns about the loss of jobs to automation. Education has always seemed immune to such pressures, but that may not be the case anymore. (1)
Elias, the new language teacher at a Finnish primary school, has endless patience for repetition, never makes a pupil feel embarrassed for asking a question and can even do the “Gangnam Style” dance. Elias is also a robot. The robot is able to understand and speak 23 languages and is equipped with software that allows it to understand students’ requirements and helps it to encourage learning. It recognizes the pupil’s skill levels and adjusts its questions accordingly. It also gives feedback to teachers about a student’s possible problems.
Some of the human teachers who have worked with the technology see it as a new way to engage children in learning. “I think in the new curriculum the main idea is to get the kids involved and get them motivated and make them active. I see Elias as one of the tools to get different kinds of practice and different kinds of activities into the classroom,” language teacher Riika Kolunsarka told Reuters. “In that sense, I think robots and coding the robots and working with them is definitely something that is according to the new curriculum and something that we teachers need to be open-minded about.”
Using robots in classrooms is not new — teaching robots have been used in the Middle East, Asia and the United States in recent years, but modern technologies such as cloud services and 3-D printing are allowing smaller start-up companies to enter the sector.
“Well, it is fun, interesting and exciting and I’m a bit shocked,” pupil Abisha Jinia told Reuters, giving her verdict on Elias the language robot. Despite their skills in language and mathematics, however, the robots’ inability to maintain discipline among a class of primary school children means that, for the time being at least, the human teachers’ jobs are safe. (2)