Danger, Will Robinson, danger! Unidentified collocations exiting your mouth. Danger, danger! You have 20 seconds to comply…

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Here’s an interesting development in the “I didn’t think it could get more absurd” world of TEFL:

Robots to Replace English Teachers in Korean Kindergartens

Korea is planning to introduce small robots named Engkey into all its kindergartens by 2013.

One of the developers of the Engkey robots spouted off this piece of carefully-penned PR magic perfect for sound-bites and blockquote callouts (which, uh, seems to have worked with my taking the bait beautifully! :wink: )…

“We do not intend to substitute real teachers with robots,” he said. “Rather it is important for us to develop robot systems that provide satisfiable assistance to teachers.”

And, y’know what? He’s absolutely right. They’re not planning to get rid of real teachers. Just the Assistant Language Teachers!

So, basically, here’s what it really means:

Robots like EngKey can also serve as valuable portals for telepresence. In that capacity it allows Korea to hire English speakers around the world to teach in their classrooms at a fraction of the price of traditional instructors who are shipped into the country.

This quote from Singularity Hub

Replacing human tape recorders with non-human human tape recorders.

What a winner. Much more humane for everyone involved, frankly.

I’ve said many times that EPIK and JET are an absolutely stupendous waste of money for their respective taxpayers whilever those in charge maintain the farce that they’re English language programs.

If people (who? The Ministry of Education folks, I guess???) admitted that JET and EPIK are much, much better treated as cultural exchange programs, where the foreigners are encouraged to learn Korean or Japanese as much as the local students are encouraged to learn English thereby better facilitating actual communication between the two parties and where there is a more genuine motivation to learn about each others’ culture — rather than trying to stuff language down their throats and tacking on a bit of intercultural malarkey… then the money wouldn’t be wasted on human tape recorders.

Here’s a good point from a professor of robotics:

“It may be better to have a telepresence robot from a highly skilled teacher than to have just an average teacher in the classroom”

See, them eggheads be smart’n’stuff. Why has it taken 20 years for the education dunces to see that?

And for really killer insight from the very same brainiac robotics prof, read the last two paragraphs of the CNN article. Insightful commentary about our craft.

Thoughts? Leave a comment below…


P.S. For the sci-fi nerds… apologies for mixing two robot references together in the headline of this blog post! :razz:

Credit: I am indebted to Jerry Harmer for bringing this story to my attention via Twitter.

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3 Responses to “Danger, Will Robinson, danger! Unidentified collocations exiting your mouth. Danger, danger! You have 20 seconds to comply…”

  1. Paul H Litvac Paul H Litvac says:

    CD/DVD players,language labs and alike;why not robots?

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  2. John John says:

    In the 1970s and 80s there were many experts predicting that TV was going to be able to replace teachers (I guess you can argue that for some kids it did).

    I think robots would probably be more interactive then computers - but having someone to interact with in the flesh will be more effective for a long time to come.

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  3. jon jon says:

    What a bunch of shite. Anyone who has taught korean kids knows that classroom management and discipline is a big factor because so many korean kids are sopiled mama boys. Kids will likely continue speaking korean while punching the robot and trying to dong chim it.

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