Rise of the Robots (Part 2)

Issue 11: 2/12/2022 Deputy Head of School

Last week, I examined some of the external challenges and opportunities posed by technology. For teaching the impact is equally massive, it will not be immune from the onslaught of technology. Recently, Promethean trialed the use of an interactive hologram teacher in London. Called the Humagram, it is described as very life-like and interactive.

There is software that can read students’ facial expressions and body language. It can identify problems with the learning and adapt the teaching accordingly. It knows whether students have learnt something or not. As a result, the learning will be quicker, more intense and totally personalised. There is software being worked upon that can mark and grade homework and exam answers! Hallelujah! 

Primary teachers will be assisted by robots. It is predicted that by 2025, there will be many robots helping teachers across the world, starting in Japan and South Korea. These bots can help with nearly every aspect of schooling. They can listen to children reading, they can make friends for isolated students, they can clean up the waste and mess, they never get tired, never need a toilet break and early uses show that the children in primary grow to love them as long as they have a face!

The recent pandemic has shown us the power of technology to mitigate against the worst of the consequences of school shutdowns. However, the ubiquitous use of Zoom and others are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the power of technology. Two growing, but underused areas are virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). The key difference between these two is that virtual reality obscures the real world and the user is immersed in a fully digital experience. AR overlays digital information on real world objects by using the camera on a mobile device, for example.

Recent applications of VR allows the user to immerse themselves in digital re-creations of, say, Ancient Rome or visit the Louvre without leaving the classroom. However, the true power of VR lies in its capacity to engage students in creating virtual worlds, not just visiting them. With AR some applications include seeing three dimensional images, video, audio or text triggered to appear by a printed image. This potential is only just being explored. 

What does this mean for education? For learning, it means that the world has and is changing exponentially and that the old certainties have gone. Therefore students must be equipped with life skills of collaboration, flexibility, communication skills, creativity and critical thinking, generally the attributes that technology is not good at. Teachers must adapt to this changing landscape quickly.  These skills will still be strong currency in the changing world.

All this brings into sharp focus the skills and attributes that a great teacher brings to the table. The ability to inspire, provide care and support, encourage, motivate, chastise and so on will be the increasingly important domains of the effective teacher of the future.

Ian Clayton
Deputy Head of School - Head of International Stream