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Robots Teaching Toddlers?

Long gone are the days of sweltering hot classrooms, droning old teachers and those big, boxy television screens that would be wheeled in on a stand.

The evolution of classrooms was gradual. The first to go were the chalk boards. Their screeching, dusty faces were replaced with the smooth, unassuming whiteboard — able to be decorated with colourful felt-tip markers that didn’t make a sound.

Then came the projectors and Smart Boards. Forget about inanimate drawing boards, this state of the art technology was interactive and could be connected to the internet. Putting the World Wide Web at the fingertips of any classroom.

Fast forward to 2018, and we now have laptops — and in some cases, automated technology — in the hands of every student. Plunging us into a new era of digital learning.

The classrooms of today are air-conditioned, tech-savvy wonderlands. And it’s only going to get better from here.

Teachers of tomorrow

With the world quickly turning towards complete digitisation, the education system is doing well to adapt to the demand which the kids of today will soon contribute to.

With the help of private companies’ innovations, schools across the globe have been able to update their curriculums to teach the skills that future workplaces will require.

Polish technology developer Photon Entertainment is one company that has been blazing the trail when it comes to primary tech education.

Photon has recently released a robot that allows children to learn the basics of programming and coding by working on the robot itself.

The robot, pictured below, allows children to practice programming through a series of apps that can be coded in over a thousand different ways. If programmed correctly, the robot’s functionality will be unlocked step by step. Allowing it to see, hear, touch, measure distance and even distinguish darkness from light through its many sensors.

When you think about it, who better than a robot to teach kids how to program? It’s an exact science after all. While automated technology — in this case low-level artificial intelligence — might not be the most skilled in the arts or humanities, when it comes to coding they may be the best for the job.

Released in late 2017, Photon’s robot is currently available in Poland, Sweden, Singapore and Australia. But the company plans to enter the German, French and Slovakian markets very soon. And while teachers are still involved in the use of these robots, there may come a day when the robots can teach the class themselves.

For education around the globe, this is an enormous leap into the future. While the classrooms of the 2000s were focussed on teaching students how to use Microsoft Word, the challenge for teachers now is to prepare children for a digital workplace. And tech like Photon’s robot will be instrumental in making coding skills accessible.

According to a 2015 Euractiv report, 90% of today’s jobs require basic IT skills. And as more jobs become automated, those skills will likely need to become more advanced.

This is why 15 EU countries, including the UK, Ireland, Spain and Poland, have already integrated coding classes into their school curriculum. To entrench those skills at a young age, nine of those countries have already begun teaching basic coding at a primary school level.

As we continue to march forward into an automated future, programming skills will be critical to survive in the workplaces and industries of tomorrow. Henry Shterenberg, the CEO of blockchain company Suntri, stressed the importance of teaching coding to children early:

The pace of change is what humans are the most scared of, because never in our history has the pace of change been so fast — and it’s accelerating. So much stuff is coming at us at such a pace…and if we don’t teach our kids and our corporate leaders and government leaders that on a constant basis, we cannot be inclusive.

Another tech developer, Chicago-based RoboThink, couldn’t agree more. They recently created a robot that children build from scratch with lego-esque blocks, and program it to perform small tasks.

As RoboThink’s CEO, Danny Park explains:

The public education system is not doing enough to have our students catch up to the rest of the world, so it’s up to private companies like us to see what we can do to break ground in setting standards and developing new content and curriculum.

As technologies like blockchain and AI continue to become more mainstream, the companies who are innovating in this space are able to thrive. Particularly as the demand for this tech ramps up in the education sector.

If Australia wants to compete with the rest of the world when it comes to tech innovation and learning, we should prop up the Aussie companies that are pioneering the change.

Katie Johnson,
Editor, Markets & Money

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