NAO dancing robots at the Universal Expo 2010 in Shanghai

What cute entertainers … they are! A troupe of good-looking NAO robots (produced by the French company Aldebaran Robotics) performs a harmonious dance. They begin by warming up with light movements and gentle stretching. Then, as the music changes to Ravel's Boléro, the NAOs show their real dance skills with equilibrium, fluidity and precision of their moves, and a certain form of esthetics (with postures of aerobics, tai chi, Haka, Noh plays, etc).

At the end of their performance, they bowed down in salute to the audience, I clapped and cheered enthusiastically. You would get touched by their synchronized dancing!

Watching the video, you will understand that we can use robots in many new (positive) ways – for education, for those who have physical challenges, and for many changes.

p.s.: It is interesting that there are also many negative comments on this robot demonstration. Is this due to the general lack of understanding of technology, the use of robots, or robotics? Or, what? Or, these robots look like humans and they move like humans, so people fear that these robots may think, emote, or act like humans!?


Not about robots but humans

Imagine having a global comparative evaluation of robots for educational purposes... definitely, the economically-developed countries, e.g. Japan, will have the trophies!

Recently, the media in many countries - e.g. Australia and America, have raised the alarm on their students' performance in International comparative tests. On top of the list of Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) are several Asian nations while many developed economies are behind. There are varied reasons for these results: country politics; curricula; training and hiring of teachers; resourcing; socio-economic characteristics of schools and students...

Different studies have shown that students in private schools outperform those in public schools. Among private educational institutions, Catholic schools (due to their social justice mission accommodate students from non-affluent families) score lower than their independent counterparts. Teaching and learning, either private or public, are affected by geographical location, e.g. city students have more access to cultural and technological developments.

Multicultural societies have more and different challenges than less diverse ones. When these challenges are not dealt with appropriately, there are some difficulties. However, it should be noted that bi-/multiculturalism has shown to be a positive contributing factor to educational/professional success.

Meanwhile, in her article in The Australian, Jennifer Buckingham - research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies - disclosed that the number of high achievers Down Under 'is shrinking because all the attention goes to the weak' consequently reducing the proportion of students performing at the highest proficiency levels.

Ms Buckingham believes that educational policy over the past decade has focused more on alleviating the effect of social disadvantage and improving the performance of low achievers. However, unfortunately, the evidence suggests that not only have low achievers not benefited, but high achievers have suffered, from this policy.

Irrespective of countries, there is a need to encourage, and not neglect, high achieving students because the failure to do so means 'disadvantage'. How can this be done equitably, i.e. without creating inequality or another kind of disadvantage?

Dr. Rolade Berthier, author 'Intelligence, Giftedness: Pre-cradle to Post-grave'


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