Language Learning via Robot.

Brett Henebery reports for The Educator (Australia) about a remarkable innovation:

NAO robots, developed by Aldebaran Robotics, a French robotics company, have been used for research and education purposes in schools and universities worldwide. […] One of these robots, called ‘Pink’, is part of a collaborative research project between the University of Queensland, the Queensland University of Technology, Swinburne University in Melbourne and the Association of Independent Schools of South Australia (AISSA).

The students and teachers at Maitland Lutheran School have been using Pink to embed the language of the traditional owners of the land – the Narungga people, into the school’s new Digital Technologies subject. About 23% of the school’s students are Aboriginal.

AISSA educational consultant, Monica Williams, told The Educator that the project is exploring how a ‘sleeping’ language of one of the peoples of the oldest living culture in the world can be bolstered using innovative technology.

“At the moment, there is only one fluent speaker of the language in the world – Tania Wanganeen. She learnt Narungga based on records that were left by the German missionaries who worked in that area. Now, students are programming the robots to speak the language,” she explained.

“So what we wanted to do at Maitland Lutheran School was to embed the Australian Curriculum cross-curricular priority of Aboriginal and Torres-Strait Islander history and cultures and give a greater sense of pride to the Aboriginal students about their Aboriginal identity.”

Very cool, and when I was a kid I certainly would have enjoyed such a classroom aid. (Thanks, Trevor!)

Comments

  1. Sorry, but I do not see the “game changing” advantage. We have had software that interacts with you, listens to your responses and analyzes them, etc etc., since the 1990s.
    The only new part I see here is that it is put into a very expensive package.
    As any language-learner knows, there’s a huge difference between running through interactive software and actually engaging 1:1 with a live teacher who is sitting in front of you, as the body language, facial expressions, and responses are different in a myriad subtle ways, none of which this piece of moving plastic can come close to replicating.

  2. one of the peoples of the oldest living culture in the world

    a language from the oldest living culture in the world

    The who with the what now?

  3. The only new part I see here is that it is put into a very expensive package.

    These are little kids, not college students, and I strongly suspect that the package makes a difference to them.

    The who with the what now?

    I know, but whaddareyagonnado? Journalists!

  4. I think that Australian Aboriginal culture as a whole is meant, which probably is the oldest continuous culture in the world in the sense that people have been living as hunter-gatherers (of course not with continuity of languages) for 40K years, there being very little alternative without 18C or better technology.

  5. Hmmm, Maitland Lutheran School appears to be in Maitland, South Australia, not Maitland, New South Wales…

    I totally support any initiative that helps give the indigenous people pride in their language and culture.

  6. John Cowan said: “I think that Australian Aboriginal culture as a whole is meant, which probably is the oldest continuous culture in the world in the sense that people have been living as hunter-gatherers (of course not with continuity of languages) for 40K years”

    I fear that you are correct. But it’s just another example of journalistic sloppiness that lumps all the numerous, various and diverse Australian aboriginal nations and tribes into one.

    It’s a bit like talking about the “Asian culture.”

  7. January First-of-May says:

    Hadn’t the Khoi-San (or at least some of them) been around in pretty much the same place with pretty much the same tech for more than that, anyway?

  8. My understanding is that they arrived where they are now relatively recently, on the run from speakers of Bantu languages who now dominate the southern half of Africa. In general, modern hunter-gatherers exist nowadays only on land absolutely unfit for agriculture, which makes them a misleading picture of what things were like when humans were entirely hunter-gatherer.

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