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Kids say Robot Teachers are “easy” & “fun”

Things are progressing smoothly according to those closely involved in the ongoing trials of robotic substitute teachers in Masan, South Korea.  The robots are being used to teach English; some of the bots are completely automated using speech recognition software, while others are telepresence robots allowing humans to teach over long distances.

“Students are able to work with native English speakers over long distance, and also do lessons at their own pace without feeling any pressure.  They are able to practice and repeat lessons without worrying about holding up the teacher or class.” said one source.  The students do lessons every other day for a total of about 2 hours of English lessons a week.  The robots’ software scores pronunciation on a 5-star scale which is displayed after each repeated phrase, giving students incentive to do better.

Student teachers are also benefiting from the novelty of one-on-one lessons with the robots; one did more than 10 hours of training in a single week.  Things aren’t perfect, though.  “Already you can see students getting a bit bored of the songs from their lessons, since the robots aren’t programmed with the latest hits.”  However the main curriculum manages to stay fresh thanks to its many conversational examples, including such themes as: at the convenience store; at the hospital/pharmacy; in the gymnasium; using public transportation; etc..  KIST is still working on fine-tuning the speech recognition based on a variety of factors (gender, age, regional accent, etc.).  The results of the trial will be studied mid-February.

Could South Korea’s recent push for robotic English teachers have anything to do with purported widespread racism brewing in the country towards foreigners?  Read the alarming story at the LA Times.

[source: Yonhap News (KR)]