Imagine walking into a classroom as a kindergartener on your first day of school, you’re nervous and excited to meet your class and the teacher that your parents explained, reminiscing about when they were young.
Upon entering the classroom you see rows of desks all equipped with screens as the desktop and each has a name. You find the desk with your name and are greeted by an electronic voice welcoming you. During the day you never move from the desk and never meet any other students as all work is done through the screen. One day this might be a reality as kids go to school only to be taught by an individual robot in custom programmed for each student’s education. Robot educators will stem from the recent advances of technology in education and will lead to the end of teachers in classrooms, leading to better education and lower costs. But as technology takes over education with robots, the social skills of our children and our society will also fall as a side effect.In 2 years over 320,000 Industrial robots were purchased in the United States. When considering how many jobs each of those robots can replace, a staggering number of employment is taken up by automation each year and the number continues to grow. The average salary of a teacher is $35,873 per year. But the price of Neo, a prototype robot teaching kids with autism in classrooms today, costs only $8,000 and will be relevant to teaching for several years. The shear difference could add up to over $100,000 saved from tax payer’s pockets for every single robot that replaces a teacher. But money is only one of the motivators for replacing teachers with robots. The ease of adaptation for a robot means a huge difference in the personalization of education and teaching styles for a student than a teacher would be able to. Robert Johnson, an author on robots and an Intel futurist, suggested just this by saying “for children with different learning styles … robots can be excellent teachers… They can give a child unfettered attention …nearly impossible for one teacher”. Such adaptation and attention will lead to better learning youth and a better-educated population in general. Furthermore, the purchase of robots will finally allow the discontinuation of every children’s worst nightmare, a school. Teaching children at the comfort of their own home has proven to be an advantage to home schooled kids. A study in Britain showed that home schooled students had higher scores on tests than those of their public educated counterparts. Independent studies done in Wisconsin and Tennessee show that smaller class sizes lead to higher test scores in everything measurable. Class size has always been a problem for public education with an ideal one to one ratio of students to educators seeming impossible to reach, but robots could finally make it a financial possibility. Personal robots educating at home may be a good situation for spending and learning but how will the withdrawal of children from schools and teachers affect students?
While using robots for teaching has advantages, taking children away from human interaction at school will affect their social abilities. Technology has already been affecting children’s ability to develop social skills, with only five days of screen time leading to a difference in the ability of a child to read others emotions. This leads to the question of how an entire day taught by a digital robot, without human interaction, will affect children’s socialization. The idea of robots teaching children in their home suggests the ability of the “teacher” to be able to babysit, completely removing humans out of a child’s life form the time a parent leaves in the morning to the time the get back during the day. Who’s to say that children will even listen to their robot at home? Even in a school setting with many students in a room, all learning from their own robot in a class seems to deprive kids from class interactions and social interactions with their peers. Robots and technology in education will lead to the disappearance of learning social skills in school.
Robots have been taking over jobs for years but can they take over the very job that teaches us how to behave, interact, learn, and work in our world? Robots in education can lead to less expensive and better learning but can social skills and interactions with peers be sacrificed for those advantages? Eventfully technology will be ready to take over the job of teaching students about the world but will the human race be ready to entrust that responsibility to robots?
Also published on Medium.