Focusing on his key interest in the world of Technology, Mark takes a look at the rising use of robots in education. How will this transform the classrooms of the future?
Are Robots in Education the Future of Schooling?
Technology in the classroom today has changed dramatically since I was at school. From the introduction of interactive whiteboards and laptops in class, to handheld devices. From my personal experience, the Curriculum has not changed much in the 13 years since I began my career in education. Now, of course, I’m no longer Mr Grayson in the classroom, but I am still fascinated to see how things are progressing, as technology increasingly finds its way into our schools.
People cite evidence in support of an idea that the education system is not that much different from how it has been for generations.
But, with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) invading the workplace, children will have to grab hold of and apply new knowledge that will be radically different to the three Rs, which has been the bread and butter of education for so long. Indeed, a new ‘R’ is being added: Robots in Education.
The Bett Show 2017 continues to impress, showcasing a wide range of education technology to help teaching and learning. Well worth a visit.
Case Study: London Design and Engineering University Technical College
In September 2016, the London Design and Engineering University Technical College was opened. It caters for 14- to 19-year-olds, and was – in its very first year – oversubscribed.
The Curriculum includes designing, from scratch, a virtual reality environment that takes viewers on a journey around an Ethiopian village. This was part of a project to highlight the work of the charity Water Aid.
Another group has spent time teaching Pepper. The school has two of SoftBank’s human-looking robots. They have programmed Pepper to make a variety of moves, including the ‘dab’ (a dance currently beloved by children around the country!). Another excited group of students is going skiing – traveling with them will be eleven Nao robots, which the pupils plan to teach how to ski!
Primary Schools, Coding, and Drones
Primary schools are also taking on the challenge and are realising the importance of learning code. Head teachers are adding coding as part of their core offering to pupils. After-school coding clubs proliferate, as do DIY computers such as the BBC’s Micro Bit and the Raspberry Pi, both of which are proving very popular with young children.
To add to this, a company called Tynker has taken its coding-through-games philosophy to 60,000 schools in the US. The company is now looking to launch in the UK.
Schools buy between six and twelve drones via Tynker’s partnership drone-maker, Parrot, and can then download Tynker’s free set of drone lessons. Children learn to make drones do back-flips. They are encouraged to take part in more complex ideas such as drones working together as a team. The pupils develop new skills each week, building on previous experience within their team.
The drones come with a range of safety features, including a “classroom mode” that means they take off extra slowly. Children cannot take command of each other’s drones. There is an automatic stop button if inquisitive fingers come too close to the drone’s blades.
The Future Classroom – Alternative Reality
Immersive education is where we are heading. And not before time, considering that most textbooks are outdated by the time they go to print. Pupils will put on headsets, entering a virtual reality world, to learn about the Battle of Hastings, or interact with a hologram of the solar system to learn about space.
Sam Morris is the global educational specialist at Lenovo. He believes there are massive benefits from learning this way:
“We see AR and VR as the next frontier,” he says. “Early usage has suggested the devices engage pupils intently in tasks, improve group interactions and the ability to adapt to multiple disciplines.”
Microsoft was at this year’s Betts Show, showing off its HoloLens mixed reality headset. Working with Case Western Reserve University, it has developed a hologram of the human body that can be dissected, allowing bones, organs, and veins to be viewed in detail. It is also working with Person to develop other educational resources for HoloLens.
The technology is still very expensive. For most schools, it is way out of their budgets:
“The declining cost of VR and AR devices will be critical to driving mass adoption in education,” says Mr. Morris.
What are your thoughts about the rise of the robots in education?
Some people are still cautious about the adoption of technology in their children’s schools, fearing that robots in education could lead to a number of security concerns. But others see the benefits of evolving the way we teach children as far outweighing any potential risks. But what do you think? We would love to hear what you have to say about robots in education, so please do drop us a tweet!