Kate's Blog
News and views about Roamer and educational robotics

Robot Teachers

Since Dave is probably the most experienced designer of educational robots on the planet , outside of MIT (he designed the first commercial robot to go into schools (the Turtle) and is still doing it today) he is often asked to review Research Papers on educational robots.

Yesterday he sent me one to look at to see what my reaction was.  A Japanese team had developed a robot teacher – larger than life size and very robot looking rather than humanoid.  It operated it two modes a) with an operator controlling it and telling it how to react and what to say and b) pre-programmed to mimic human movements like looking at the board when explaining something on it and to explain, ask questions and respond to answers.

So what did I think? Well, as far as I’m concerned for operation a), a teacher might as well cover themselves in aluminium foil and take the lesson – cheaper and more effective. The robot in this mode is pointless and just gimmicky. The kids would quickly tire of the novelty and then it would lose any impact it may initially have had. Continue reading

The rise of the robots


Everywhere I look at the moment people are predicting a robotic future.  Not only will robots be serving our every need at home but they will be taking over all our jobs too.  And apparently where this once may have been fantasy it is now more a reality.  Just consider the jobs that driverless cars will take: from driving instructors to delivery drivers. Hospitals can run on much reduced staff; don’t bother with self service tills, a robot will do it for you…

Some people have used this to predict all sorts of futures for us from a sort of robotic Armageddon where they take over completely and we are no longer needed,  to a sun filled leisure paradise for humans where the robots do all the work and earn all the money to provide each of us with an income and unending leisure time. Continue reading

Future proofing your classroom

I love technology. When I look at the improvements it has made to my life it is just incredible, from reconnecting with old friends to making it easier to find a plumber. I’ll just compare one task –going to the cinema: as a young teenager I would have to get out the Yellow Pages and find the numbers of the local cinemas and then phone each one individually to find out what was showing.  I could only phone when the phone-line was manned – later in the day.  Recorded messages stating films and showing times were a great innovation.  Now of course not only is all the information online, but I can be alerted if a film I particularly want to see is on and no more queuing to buy tickets; I book online.  Technology just makes life easier.  When my generation wanted to travel, Continue reading

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young had it right

I’m not going to make any bones about it, I was, and still am, a very ardent  “Remain” voter re Brexit.  I am also strongly opposed to Trump.  Apparently this makes me one of the liberal elite.  Now, as far as I’m concerned liberal means that you care about others, not just yourself; you are a vocal proponent of equality of opportunity and vehemently opposed to any sort of racism, sexism etc. and you are tolerant.  Elite in this context means educated.  It used to be that these were attributes to be admired, now they are flung at you in an accusatory way as if thinking about things for more than a nano-second and looking at things deeper than a soundbite are failings in your character. Continue reading

Fake News

I have been wondering how we teach our children the importance of facts, logic and scientific proof in this era of post-truth politics. A time when people can appear on television and tell lies and deny facts with apparent absolute conviction – and get away with it.

I remember an incident many years ago when a Jamaican work colleague told me that if a man and a woman went for the same job the man should always get it even if the woman was better qualified.  I tried all my powers of reason and logic to persuade him otherwise, to no avail.  In the end I said, “Actually, you have a point, Vince, because I think that if a black man and white man went for the same job the white man should always get it.”  He was (quite rightly) appalled and correctly accused me of prejudice but was still blind to the prejudices he was displaying.  At that point I realized that some attitudes and outlooks are so deeply ingrained that no amount of logic is going to shift them.  You can’t fight emotion with logic.  Yet all our teaching is based on logic and facts (not alternative facts)  So are we sending our children powerless into the future armed only with scientific thought and common sense – attributes that I used to think would combat all? Continue reading

Around the world...

How Does Your Curriculum Measure Up?

Did you see the programme about Korean education? It was fascinating.  The students are either in school or an after-school tutorial from 6am – midnight.  Every week day!  I remember taking a Korean visitor into a Primary classroom.  The students were all completely engrossed in their work, so much so that they didn’t even notice us walk in.  But the thing that really got him was…

Continue reading

Research and the Media

It must be true it’s in the papers?

This week we were treated to headlines proclaiming that ICT had no affect on pupil’s performance according to OECD study “Computers and Learning”. Actually, if you read the report it says no such thing. It does say “In the end technology can amplify great teaching, but great technology cannot replace poor teaching”. It’s telling us something we all know – the key to great teaching is the teacher! This happens so often when the media is covering a piece of educational research – they select a minute part of the report, according to their political agenda and completely ignore the rest. Continue reading

It's all Chinese to me

A story that caught my eye this week was the one about the man who woke from a coma speaking perfect Mandarin.  Now I’m happy to believe that an over-developed left side of the brain can make someone a Maths genius (see previous blog) but somehow I can’t quite believe that we can suddenly start spouting a language we didn’t know before.  I don’t believe that Mandarin is lying dormant within us to be brought into bloom with a knock on the head.  They must have been exposed to the language previously and a bit more than watching “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon”.

So how do you teach a foreign language without sending your pupils into a coma?  It’s a problem that primary schools around the country are struggling with what with the advent of compulsory Foreign language teaching this year.  Of course Computing is also now compulsory but since we all know how good Roamer® is for helping to implement that already I thought I would focus on languages.  I have already had teachers telling me that roamer has helped enormously with teaching directions in another language.  So why not kill two birds with one stone and create language activities with Roamer® – then you will be doing both the language and the computing curriculum and that’s two less things for you to worry about.

Brain Power

On the news recently was a truly remarkable story.  A retail worker in the US got mugged and in the process suffered a minor brain injury.   Once he had recovered he started noticing flow patterns in the toilet flush.  In fact all around him he could see patterns.  It frightened him so much that he went back to the Doctor.  It was discovered that as his brain had repaired itself his left hemisphere had gone into overdrive  and he was now an expert mathematician. Continue reading

Are You Ready?

Knowing that I had done a lot of workshops recently a teacher friend asked me what a school that was prepared for the new Computing Curriculum looked like.  What equipment did they have? I thought about it for a while and realised that it wasn’t what the school looked like that made the difference – it was how it felt. There are so many ways you could tackle the new curriculum that the equipment you choose doesn’t really define how good you are – although of course I would advocate the use of Roamer®. Continue reading