"[I]f I had to live my life again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week…The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature." --Charles Darwin

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Robots must learn in order to teach

There was a piece in the New York Times a few days back about robots being developed for classroom use. The scientists involved in this effort or quick to disclaim any intent or desire to displace the human teacher, but only to supplement the teacher, much in the way one might use an aide (a type of support which has become very vulnerable here in NJ, given our current budget crisis).

The takeaway from this story is twofold (beside the need for cheaper workers in schools). One is that facial recognition is rapidly increasing in AI, and not just identification of faces, but being able to read moods and feelings. The knowledge gained in this effort might be useful in working with autistic students who have difficulty reading other people. (The scientists had to learn how important social interaction is in primary learning.)

The other thing is that one definition of a good teacher is a person who knows how to learn. As the article says, "If robots can learn to learn, on their own and without instruction, they can in principle make the kind of teachers that are responsive to the needs of a class, even an individual child."

Then maybe those robots can train new teachers.

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