Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Robots Vs. Nuns

The Chronicle of Higher Education takes a look at a new trend in teaching: Robots.
As an engineering achievement, they are a feat. Brightly colored and shaped like penguins, the roughly three-foot-tall robots can roll around, recognize speech, and display facial expressions as they broadcast audio. They are designed to help with pronunciation, among other tasks.
The robots can teach in one of two ways: either by leading students through preprogrammed exercises or by having a human operate them remotely using the Internet.
A few readers might find the idea of learning from a robot kind of creepy, menacing even. I agree, but consider the alternative: nuns. Years of Catholic education taught me never to mess with a nun, especially about grammar or the multiplication table. "There are rules, children! They are meant to be followed!" In fact, if you were to substitute, "nuns" for "robots" in the pull quote above, it would describe, almost perfectly, the Dominican Order's approach to education. Except instead of the Internet, the Sisters of Saint Joseph, penguin-shaped, though colorless, were remotely controlled by the archdiocese.

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