TeachingEnglish
Robots

Theme: Domestic robots
Lexical area: Household chores
Cross curricular links: Science

Instructions for language assistants in Italics

Classroom materials

Introduction
This lesson is based around robots and will encourage students to talk about how science is developing and influencing out everyday lives.

Task 1 is a simple drawing dictation for students to do in pairs. The end product is a simple line drawing of a robot to introduce the topic. Task 2 gets students to think about what jobs they would like a domestic robot to do for them.

As students have probably had most of their exposure to robots through films, Task 3 asks them to talk about the ‘robofilms’ they have seen. Task 4 is a reading task for higher levels based around an article from the British Council’s Culture Lab UK website. Task 5 encourages students to think about the past, present and future of everyday activities and Task 6 is an opportunity for students to create their own robots in teams and present their designs to the class. This task can be flexible depending on the age and level of the class.

1. Robot back to the board
Divide the class into two groups, A and B. Group As will need a piece of paper and a pencil or pen and they need to be seated with their backs facing towards the board. It’s vital they don’t turn around and look at the board. Group Bs should face the board and find a partner from group A and sit facing them. When the students are seating correctly, draw a simple line drawing of a robot on the board. Students in group B should describe the picture to their group A partner who should draw the same line drawing.

‘Draw a rectangle at the top. In the rectangle draw a small square near the top right hand corner and a small square in the top left hand corner. Under the two squares in the centre, draw a long thin rectangle. (this is the face of the robot!) Continue until the robot is completed.

If the seating arrangements for this activity are impossible you can dictate the robot drawing to the whole group or give one of the students the picture and get them to do it.

Task 1 Back to the board
You need a piece of paper and a pencil. Listen to your teacher’s instructions carefully.

2. Jobs for robots
This activity is to get students thinking about how a robot may help them in their every day lives in the future. Brainstorm ideas with the group (tidy my room, do homework, iron clothes, play computer games with me…..) then ask students to choose their top three. When all students have done this they can compare their answers and (depending on the level) defend their choices.

Task 2 Jobs for robots
What jobs do you think robots could do? Write as many different jobs as you can here:

Imagine you have a robot to help you at home and at school. Which three jobs would you like your robot to do? Put your top three here.

1)
2)
3)

Now compare your top 3 with the rest of the class.

3. Robofilms
I think we can assume that a lot of what people know about robots comes from films. This activity gives students a chance to talk about films they have seen with robots in and to discuss whether they believe any aspects of these films may one day become a reality.

Task 3 Robofilms

  • What films have you seen with robots in?
  • Do you like films with robots? Why/ why not?
  • What were the abilities of the film robots?
  • Do you think that robots with these the abilities of the film robots will ever exist?
  • Do you think that in the future robots will become a normal part of our lives?


4. Robot reading – Jeeves Machine
This text is adapted from an article on a British Council website called Culture Lab UK. If your students are interested in science and technology you will find lots of interesting articles there. Depending on the level of your students you should consider pre-teaching some of the vocabulary beforehand.

Students should read the article and then discuss the questions that follow in pairs or small groups.


Task 4 Robot reading – Jeeves Machine
Before you read the article decide if the following statements are true or false for you:

1) I would like to have a robot in my house
2) I think that in ten years time most people will have robots in their homes
3) Research into robots is a waste of money

 Read the article and then answer the questions in pairs or small groups.

Jeeves Machine

Having robots around to do the laundry sounds like a great idea. But will they be polite? And how will you teach them not to always have the TV remote control?

In only three years time there will be more than four million robots in domestic service in homes throughout the world! That’s according to the latest United Nations report. They won’t, however, be like C-3PO with their very own list of psychological ‘issues’, although they will still need to follow codes of behaviour. But how can you teach a robot social skills?

A Research Group at Hertfordshire University’s School of Computer Science is trying to answer this question. Advances in technologies are making the dream of autonomous household robots into a reality that is closer than we may think.

In the very near future, robots could be as common as vacuum cleaners and blenders, so their ‘personalities’ are going to be important. That is why the Hertfordshire University group has hired behavioural psychologists to work alongside programmers and electronics engineers.

The team is conducting experiments in which robots interact with people, assist them with various tasks, and even play with children. Observations and post-experimental surveys are revealing. The person’s own personality-type, age and gender influences perceptions of the robot. Service robots should really be able to assess different types of people and react accordingly – much as we do ourselves.

It is hoped the guidelines for robot etiquette will be established for when technology makes robots ready to share a house with people. And for when people are ready to share a house with robots. How long will that be? ‘It might take five years, it might take twenty or more,’ says Dautenhahn, cautiously.

However long, it is probably inevitable. Sceptics should note that large companies including Dyson, Electrolux and Hoover, are seriously investing in home robotics. They should also remember similar reservations expressed about the potential for home computers.

Of course the friendly C-3PO is not the only model of electronic companion. Anyone who has seen The Terminator will probably need little persuading as to the benefits of a charm school for robots.

This article adapted from the British Council Culture Lab UK website. The original writer was Don Connigale

 

  • Do you believe that in three years time more than four million homes will have domestic robots?
  • Do you think that robots can be given personalities?
  • Do you think it’s possible to create polite robots?
  • What jobs do you think may be replaced by robots in the future?
  • Do you think a robot could be used to teach languages?


5. Back to the future
This could be done as a group activity. You can also use it to revise the simple past, present simple and simple future tenses with your group. Give some examples to get them on the right track. E.g.. Washed up by hand – put dishes in dishwasher – will have disposable dishes.

Task 5 Back to the future
Think of how your life has already changed thanks to technology. Complete the columns with as many examples as you can.

Past Present Future
Wrote letters Send emails ?


6. Design your own robot
Students work in small groups (design teams) to design their own robot. If you are teaching a very low level simplify the questions and get the students to draw the robot and think of the brand name and then simply write a list of what the robot can do. My robot is called …….and it can……

Encourage the students to use their imaginations and be as creative as possible. If they get into the idea and you have time, space and materials why not get them to build the prototype of their robot using cardboard boxes and household waste! If you fancy yourself as a Blue Peter presenter of the future, make one yourself as an example – ‘here’s one I made earlier!’


Task 6 Design your own robot
Imagine you work for a robot design company. You and your team are responsible for designing the next generation of robots for the home. Talk to your team and decide on these points:

  • What will your robot be able to do?
  • What will your robot look like?
  • How much will your robot cost to buy?
  • What type of people will want to buy your robot?
  • What brand name will you give your robot?


Draw your robot here:

Now tell the other teams about your robot.

Internet links

Here you can find a link to the original article and an online interactive exercise.
http://www.learnenglish.org.uk/robot

This is a BBC article on artificial intelligence.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/hottopics/ai/

This is an article from BBC’s Hardtalk programme about the pros and cons of AI and robotic research.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/hardtalk/2202825.stm

Here are some practical uses of AI in everyday life.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/hottopics/ai/future.shtml

By Jo Budden

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