Question: Can you learn from a robot?

I had great fun last week, exploring what it is like to talk to a chatbot. It was Shelly Terrell who originally put me up to it, advising me when I was gathering ideas for a Spotlight Magazine article edited and coauthored by Jo Westcombe on ways English learners can use the Internet. I spent the better part of a day and evening experimenting, trying to figure out how chatbots make sense of my input, wondering whether or not our exchange sounded “human”, and thinking about whether I’d want students of English to use chatbots to develop their language skills. My findings will go online as a language exercise to supplement the article on Tuesday, and I don’t want to jump the gun here, but I’d like to share some of my impressions of the process with you.

What I’d like to know from you: Can you learn from a robot? Have you ever “interacted” with an inanimate system to improve technical and/or life skills? What sorts of skills do you think robots could teach? And would you enjoy using them in place of a “human” teacher?

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New tools

Supporting a web relaunch is making me think what a language learning website should look like in a perfect world. Give me a couple of hundred thousand euros and I’ll get my act together 😉

For the time being I’m enjoying the new ideas out there. My favorites are interactive videos that speak to you (which is your win) when you click them in the right place. It has that playfulness we all love, like tickling someone and they squeal for you. I like “Save the words” by OUP, which unfortunately has selected words that are useless for most of us. Plus, of course, the word you pick would have to say its name, right? But get a load of the great interface :-D. Just imagine a website that has all the exercises behind buttons like those… Cooooool. Ach, who will give me the money to do all I want to do?