Coming of the 'Bots

There is quite a bit of functionality that a bot can provide these days, as a first class account on various communication tools. It is time to seriously consider the value that a bot can provide for learning and tutoring. In particular, while things like Ok Google, Hey Siri and Microsoft's Hey Cortana. These are all general purpose intelligent personal assistants but have a lot of trouble getting beyond basic information retrieval. The problem is in general purpose and of course intelligence.

Learning Bots are for Human Learning

The way around that is to make the bot actually inform the human of what the human doesn't know, not act as a digital dog fetching the newspaper (and not much else). In this case, there can be a specific language around what the bot should itself know (and be queried) and what it can do in terms of instruct, guide, and tutor.

Of course bots will not be able to respond to sophisticated or open-ended questions, but they can certainly act as helpers.

What Learning Bots should Know

  • Names of learners
  • Courses titles, dates, and enrollment
  • Be able to fetch a syllabus
  • Current achievements and progress, upcoming assignments
  • How long ago the learner has last engaged with a bot
  • The various resources the learner can use
  • Was of interacting and sparking interest in the learner
  • How to tell stories, ask and answer questions

How Learning Bots can help

We need a pedagogical system that could best fit what a bot can and cannot do. It doesn't replace a teacher, and does not command that kind of presence. Indeed it can only be summoned and cannot itself assert control (other that via information or perhaps exhortation). Instead of being a nannybot (which is about control, not education or learning), a good place to start would be Maria Montessori and the Montessori pedagogical method of mixed ages, student choice, uninterrupted blocks of time, discovery model, freedom of movement, and trained teachers.

Montessori Bots, or since the focus of Montessori is on bambini (children), we can call them Botini. Of course Montessori is applicable to adults. They are to be little helpers. A fascinating presentation on the role of the Adult in Montessori education can help lay the foundation for several dynamics:

  • Enable the learner to be autonomous
  • Provide guidance when needed, not control
  • Understand the evolution of the learner, and their needs
  • The Botini must be trusted and supported, and developed

Bot Technology

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