Monday, November 28, 2011

Shawshank Contraption

As part of its move to become the world leader in replacing job-seeking humans with cold, soulless machines, South Korea is reportedly planning to use robots as prison guards. A month-long test is being conducted in Pohang:
The robots are designed to patrol the corridors of corrective institutions, monitoring conditions inside the cells. If they detect sudden or unusual activity such as violent behavior they alert human guards.

“Unlike CCTV that just monitors cells through screens, the robots are programmed to analyze various activities of those in prison and identify abnormal behavior,” Prof. Lee Baik-chul of Kyonggi University, who is in charge of the 1 billion-won ($863,000) project, told the Journal.
I think this is a capital idea! Absolutely nothing could possibly go wrong with this plan, especially if they patrol the international wing of the jail where the robots' programming would never ever interpret foreigner behavior as abnormal.

By the way, this is what they're actually supposed to look like. Frankly, if this pilot study were being conducted in an American prison, I'd give it about 700 nanoseconds before K-prisonbot 3000 is made someone's bitch.

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11 comments:

  1. This "initiative" to develop robots to teach English must be the most hair-brained (or is it hare-brained?) idea that I have ever heard about (after "student evaluations" - ha!). Artificial intelligence, yes; but why not provided through the Internet, rather than in machine(/person)? Surely robotic pedagogy has been completely made redundant by Siri?

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  2. Robert wrote:
    This "initiative" to develop robots to teach English must be the most hair-brained (or is it hare-brained?)

    An Engbot would know the answer.

    Surely robotic pedagogy has been completely made redundant by Siri?

    Siri ain't all that — yet.

    In defense of the robots (at least in the prison), they can be equipped with Siri technology and have the benefit of being able to move about.

    I see a positive side to this: the effort to make the cities robot-accessible might also make the city more handicapped-accessible.

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  3. It might be cheaper than getting a computer for each seat in English class. As long as there is a Korean teacher to oversee the thing, I don't see a problem. I don't see why student evaluations are such a bad idea. I can see why some people would though if they are afraid of what might be said. It's standard practice at some American universities and quite helpful to those who actually want to improve their own teaching. Of course, there are some disingenuous students, so reviews should not be taken at face value. But another check and balance to the system. Shouldn't we all be so critical?

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  4. A computer for each seat in class is NOT what is needed, nor should false economy be the determinant. UBIQUITOUS COMPUTING is needed. This requires mobile computing; and this can now be delivered with WiFi networking, iPads, and iOS5, together with appropriate Apps for pedagogy. Each student is provided with their own tablet computer, which they carry with them and thus have accessible Internet access 24/7.

    I fail to see how students who 1. don't come to class; 2. won't buy a required text unless forced to do so; 3. don't bring their texts if they do come; 4. don't open their texts unless directed to; 5. don't actually read them or attempt any set work; 6. don't bother coming to quizzes; 7. are too busy to come to exams; 8. openly cheat if they do come to quizzes or exams; and 9. don't do set tasks (as homework) etc. can possibly be in a position to evaluate their teacher's performance. Who's kidding who?

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  5. I fail to see how students who 1. don't come to class; 2. won't buy a required text unless forced to do so; 3. don't bring their texts if they do come; 4. don't open their texts unless directed to; 5. don't actually read them or attempt any set work; 6. don't bother coming to quizzes; 7. are too busy to come to exams; 8. openly cheat if they do come to quizzes or exams; and 9. don't do set tasks (as homework) etc. can possibly be in a position to evaluate their teacher's performance. Who's kidding who?

    Wow, what a generalization of Korean students. And tablet computers are SO MUCH cheaper than laptops. Just providing computers for English classes is a lot more cost-effective option. You don't have to equip EACH student with their own computer. You don't like the idea of robots because it threatens YOUR OWN personal interests as an English teacher. Don't kid yourself as though you care about the education of children. Even more reason to get robots. At least they won't disrespect their students. Thanks for making the case easier to argue. Doing a job is more than having the "skills" to do it, but coming in with the right attitude. You show how biased and prejudicial you are toward Korean children. If you think such little of them, then you should think about doing something else. Korea does not OWE YOU or anyone else a job. Bring on the robots. Better than entitled English teachers who disdain their young students. Children need teachers who believe in their abilities, not whiny expats who feel entitled to a job. Why don't you teach in your home country where the kids don't cheat and come in ready to learn? LOL. Just requires some additional classes and getting a teaching license. Korea sucks enough to complain about, but not enough to leave. I've seen this story many times over.

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  6. 1. It is sad, itissaid, that I was not in fact referring to children, but to college students (but in your mind I suspect you would see them as children also).
    2. Your economic analysis of providing computers for English classes as being a lot more cost-effective option is, I believe, ill-informed. The days of worshiping at serried ranks of desktop installations are far-gone; as is the conceptualization of English as being in some sense distinct from other disciplines. Students want and need the ability to navigate flawlessly within the digital environment from discipline to discipline (and from language to language) via social pursuits and personal relaxation time. Mobile (tablet) computing (with e-texts, and online quizzes, exams, tasks and homework) provides at least the potential for that. And what would you provide? Desktop computers at each of their (non-English) classes as well? Maybe 8 computers per student?
    3. My objection to robots is certainly not “selfishly-motivated from a fear of losing my job”; it is a gut reaction to what, frankly, I regard as a ridiculous proposal. I don't believe that its advocates appreciate the depth of complexity of natural language. What I do sense is a great deal of research funds being needlessly squandered through an outdated flawed objective.
    4. Again, why presume I am generalizing to all students? I have dedicated students, whom I respect, and many so-so students of whom I only ask that they make a sincere effort. But of these, a number do not; and in some classes it becomes a prevailing mentality. Effective learning strategies become replaced by "getting thru by doing the absolute minimum I/we can get away with" strategies (some strategies being individual, some collective). This is the reality I encounter in at least one of my current classes, and it angers me as this behavior frustrates the very purpose of education. The uncomfortable reality is that some (sometimes many) students are sabotaging their own education; and administrations are sometimes complicit in this.
    5. If, in fact, you have seen "this story" all before - such patronage, oh ancient wise one! - maybe that is indicative of a prevailing pattern i.e. of students sabotaging their own education, or at least that there are objectively unsavory aspects to Korean EFL, and the question then arises - why don't you then do something about it, instead of swallowing and dutifully regurgitating the status quo?
    6. I fail to see how objectively recounting the experiences I actually have in the classroom is evidence of bias and prejudice. What I am suggesting is that this kind of behavior actually occurs, is not uncommon, and is worthy of being addressed (through appropriate research) and rectified (through action research and practice), as it betrays the higher purposes of education. What has happened to the natural sense of wonder, of wanting to learn?
    7. I’m aware of how important it is - in your mind at least - to “have the right attitude”, which no doubt you would prescribe; and how Korea is in some magical sense a law unto itself, where commonsense and reality can be safely ignored. The reality is rather that Korean collegiate EFL is embedded in an international educational milieu, which needs to be respected.
    8. “Children need teachers who believe in their abilities”; yes maybe, but reality also needs to be addressed, and some (child-like) behavior is not rectified by smarmy indulgence, but is worsened.

    P.S. to Kushibo:
    My earlier allusion to Siri assumed (in my mind) the potential to utilize it as a natural language interface to enable Internet-mediated CALL, which (in my opinion) immediately makes robotic agents redundant. Sorry to be so opaque, but it strikes me that there are grounds there for some innovative research.

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  7. Nice way to deflect. You did generalize to ALL Korean students. You can try to put words in my mouth, but everything I wrote is up there for your reference. You can address the points or you can address false arguments that were never made in the first place. I guess the standard of common sense doesn't apply to you. And whether children or not, your students do deserve someone who believes them and their abilities. You obviously have not shown that to be the case.

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  8. Dialogue for itissaid would seem to be restricted to addressing his own point of view, real or imagined, as no other viewpoint could possibly have any validity. The uncomfortable reality remains that teacher evaluations made by students of whom a significant portion have clearly demonstrated that they are determined not to learn - and who actively sabotage their own education - are superficial, worthless and misleading. Korean education suffers from a deep malaise that he will not recognize, presumably because to do so would threaten (what I imagine to be) his relatively privileged status. His apologetics do nothing for students, while serving to bolster a demonstrably inept educational system.

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  9. Ain't it a bitch having to deal with reality...

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  10. Ain't it a bitch having to deal with reality...

    Not really. Reality suits me just fine :)

    Something is wrong with Open ID. Had difficulty getting verified.

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