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An exclusive school in Abu Dhabi is hiring a new kind of teacher this school year:
Merryland International School in Mussafah has launched what it claims is the first robotic lab in a UAE school, with more than 30 cutting edge robots including humanoids with built-in intelligence.
Humanoid AISOY Raspberry Pi robot will teach basic addition and subtraction while Nao, the 57-cm tall Evolution Humanoid robot from France, will help special needs children.
Nao can walk, talk and even recognise emotions. The programmable robot can also be used to explore research topics in robotics, computer science, human-machine interaction and even social sciences.
Then there is the Genibo Robot Dog which falls asleep if the students are not attentive.
“I have sourced out some of the best and most advanced robots including humanoids, quadrupeds, hexapods, flying robots and pet robots from all over the world,” Susheela George, Founder of Merryland, told XPRESS.
Sounds like Act I of a Terminator prequel. But for Merryland, the robots are no gimmick. The private institution is accredited by Cambridge University and has won several awards for academic excellence. The school’s founder wants to pique her students’ interest in science and technology, so why not integrate them directly into the classroom?
Robots are just the latest innovation in the tech revolution that is transforming K-12 education. Tools such as tutoring web sites, teaching software, educational apps, and online adaptive testing and instruction make up the growing field of Digital Learning.
This isn’t a matter of handing out free iPads or helping third-world villages to download YouTube cat videos. Instead, digital learning can accelerate learning through ease of access, limitless “class” size, and a system of rewards and motivators that can be individually attuned to each student.
You can download seminars from the world’s finest universities at iTunes, get tutoring on your tougher subjects from Khan Academy, or take complete courses at Udacity. Digital learning’s flexibility brings tremendous advantages to kids with learning disabilities, those trapped in failing school districts, or kids in remote areas who don’t have a choice of schools to attend.
Even better, this revolution doesn’t require a vast infusion of extra spending on personnel and infrastructure. Many of the best options are offered to students free of charge. According to Herbert Walberg and Joseph Bast of the Heartland Institute, digital learning can deliver the “creative destruction” needed to dramatically improve America’s K-12 system.
Research shows substantial positive achievement effects of online education in pre-internet days and larger effects in recent years. More advanced technologies used on a much wider scale promise even larger achievement effects, lower costs, and a greater variety of incentives, curricula, and teaching methods from which parents, students, and educators can choose. Obstacles in the path to increased use of digital learning can be removed by parents and policymakers working together to adopt the policies recommended by pioneering leaders in the field, the Digital Learning Council, and other groups supporting this disruptive innovation – which will likely lead to far more effective education.
Technology-driven improvements are another reason America needs to embrace a school choice mentality. Our traditional system of top-heavy school districts and recalcitrant teachers unions no longer educates students to their potential. And if a robot can one day achieve better results than a tutor, why not give it a try?