Advanced Digital Technologies

Robot Teachers in Classrooms: The Future is Here

Hollywood films have touched the essence of society’s fears. There are movies like The Creator (2023), WALL-E (2008), I, Robot (2004), The Matrix (1998), and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Many more productions provoke that AI will become as sentient as human beings. However, it’s not found in science fiction films but in classrooms. The future is here and robot teachers are in the classrooms. How so? 

The evolution of AI and technology in teaching has forged connections with students and teachers. The new technology is crafting curriculum and rethinking pedagogy. One thing is to supplement classrooms with AI, but another is to take complete charge. 

British education expert Anthony Seldon thinks that robots will overtake classrooms by 2027. Imagine robots as teachers and human teachers aiding as assistants! Worldwide research suggests that a robot teacher is preferable to no teacher. About 9-16 percent of children under 14 don’t attend school. In part, this is due to a teacher shortage. 

The First Robot to Teach

Let me introduce you to Bina48, the first robot to teach a college course. She was named after Bina Rothblatt and uses artificial intelligence based on her memories, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Amazingly, Bina48 interacts with people comfortably using her moving face, eyes that see, ears that hear, and digital memory. Hanson Robotics developed this specialized robot and is part of the LifeNaut Project, an experiment in AI and “Cyber-consciousness.”

Before being allowed to teach a college-level course, she attended Professor of Philosophy William Barry’s classroom. In 2017, Bina48 participated with other students in a 16-week training in philosophy at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont. 

Together with Professor Barry and Assistant Professor Maj. Scott Parsons, Bina48 taught 100 students two sections of an introductory training in the philosophy of ethics. The training covered the topics of ethical reasoning, war theory, and the use of AI in society. She extracted background knowledge and information from her memory. She remains disconnected from the Internet during class, so she doesn’t implement unreliable resources.

Not only did this teaching experiment support a liberal educational model, but approval from the students. However, many are skeptical that robots like Bina48 can replace instructors, lecturers, and teachers. 

“Regi” the Robot

At Arlington, Texas, Manara Academy experimented with robots to teach school children. Earlier this year, the school had an influx of new students to the United States. Not only do these children have to learn how to comprehend new material, but master the basics of the English language. “Regi” is a robot often used to help students at home who have illnesses and can participate in class from home. 

However, since Manara Academy is shorthanded on teachers, they use “Regi” to multiply teachers. For instance, a teacher can teach the whole group while the robot in the corner teaches a small group lesson. 

Eagle 2.0

India’s development of the Eagle 2.0, the humanoid robot, has revolutionized the classroom. A team of seventeen members comprising content developers, graphic designers, and programmers (IIT alumni and engineers) were trained in robot development in China for two months. After two years of development, the team used 3D printing and imported a motor from the United States to build the humanoid robot from scratch. 

In 2019, Indus International School in Bengaluru conducted a pilot project on standalone teaching robots that work alone in a classroom in the absence of teachers. In efforts to revolutionize its classrooms, the humanoid robots are teacher assistants in chemistry, biology, geography, and history classes in the seventh-ninth grade. 

This 5-foot 7-inch robot is dressed in formal female attire and complements the teacher in the classroom. She was programmed to answer questions students frequently ask and answer any doubts about the lesson taught. The Collaborative Learning Model (CLM) has received many accolades worldwide with its affiliation with the Geneva-based International Baccalaureate (IB) Institute. 

The objective is to give students personalized instruction while the robot can provide information, deliver content, and provide formative and summative assessments. The teacher maintains control of the classroom. It also allows the teacher to mentor children and provide emotional support. The collaboration between the humanoid robot, the physical teacher, and the students has become successful in the classroom. 

A Connection is Lost

The future is here, and robot teachers are in the classrooms. AI tools can provide personalized learning for students. But only when directed to do so by a skilled and empathetic teacher. On the other hand, AI can’t discern emotions beyond a coded response. A robot is coded to be supportive but is limited compared to human teachers. AI can provide information and assessments. However, it’s the human touch that makes education transformative. Teachers create a spark within students. They inspire, mentor, and provide a supportive environment for students to thrive. 


Leave a Reply