S.Korea schools get [racist] robot English teachers (via @daylemajor )


Do I find this implementation racist and insulting to non-Caucasian teachers, hell yes! They are taking a teacher from the Philippines and putting a white women’s face on them. This could have been done a lot more realistically with true videoconferencing without having to add a layer of animation, which will end up deadening much of the facial cues leaving the animation nearly useless in this regard.

One defense of this could be that they want to maintain consistency in the appearance of the teacher even when using a variety of staff on the back-end. However, that still doesn’t explain the white-washing.

With that said, this is the first implementation of robot teachers (robot-assisted language learning–RALL) I’ve heard about that make some sense. This is basically videoconferencing with a mobile monitor (with some ability for arm and leg movements). This is much better than the stuff presented before that is basically a rolling tape player with some ridiculous voice recognition. Having a skilled teacher behind the robot is key and, at least for the foreseeable future, the only way to provide an optimal educational experience.

As I saw in a presentation by KICE a few months ago, the biggest problem with using videoconfernced teachers in classrooms is having a trained (and motivated) teacher/facilitator physically in the classroom with the videoconferenced teacher. Local teachers tend to sit back and watch or, worse yet, just leave the classroom during the videoconferencing time. In addition, there is little planning time afforded local teachers, thus they tend not to plan classes with their videoconferenced co-teachers. This finding is nothing new to native English-speaking co-teachers in Korean public schools. The same complaints have been heard for years. They were hired as co-teachers, but end up planning and conducting classes alone as a result of both teacher apathy and poor oversight and training.

With all this in mind, I’d say where is the time and money for training local staff? Without it, these high-tech innovations make for great publicity, but lousy education.

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