On Future Technologies and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) in Modern Classrooms

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Dr. M. Ramachandran

The non Western world was not able to cope up with First and Second Industrial Revolution(IR) of 18th and 19th centuries. This had a searing resonance for South Asia: We were not the gainers but victims. But , we are able to move along with the 3rd Industrial Revolution in the second half of 20th century (Thanks to the progress of Information and Communication Technology(ICT)). Now the First and Second World countries are undergoing rapid slides in 4IR technologies. The first IR was triggered by the invention of steam engine, which led to mechanical production. The 2nd IR, catalyzed by electricity, and the assembly line made mass production feasible through the discovery and usage of electricity. The 3rd IR, from 1960’s had been driven by the computer, internet and digital technology.
The 4IR is being driven today by the following ten technologies:
1. Autonomous Robots 2. Simulation 3. Big data analytics 4. Augmented Reality
5. The Cloud 6. Cyber Security 7. Additive Manufacturing 8. Horizontal and Vertical Integration 9. The Internet of things, and 10. Artificial Intelligence.
Deep Blue, Sophia. Erica, and Alpha Go
We had earlier given only news value to the event when we heard about Deep Blue, a super computer developed by IBM in 1997 which defeated Garry Kasprov, the world chess champion. Now, the world is looking at Sophia, a Hong Kong made, now a Saudi Arabian citizen ‘robot’ named Sophia. Erica is a TV anchor in Tokyo based channel services. It happened last year in China, Alpha Go, a Go programme designed by Google defeated the champion of Chinese ‘Go’ games. ‘Go’ is an ancient Chinese game like chess which has a large number of moves. Everyone believed in the past even after Deep Blue that no computer can defeat Go player Lee Sedol. But Alpha Go defeated him in a straight set of 5 matches. This is the contemporary history of Artificial Intelligences and Robots which is unprecedented. Another breakthrough that happened at the Annual international Conference on Intelligent Robots-2018 held in Madrid last week where Robot Erica conducted a job interview as an employer for job seekers which stunned the participants and visitors.
Elias, the Robotic teacher in Finland schools:
Now let us see how these modern 4IR technologies are effecting school and college classrooms. Take the case of Elias, the robotic teacher in Finland classrooms. London based international news agency, Reuters recently reported that Finland schools deployed robots as teachers. Elias, the new language teacher at a Finish primary school, has endless patience for repetition, never makes a student embarrassed for asking a question, giving personal attention and individual care to each learner and delivery or imparting information is a better quality one. Elias, this language teaching machine comprises a humanoid robot and mobile application. This robot was introduced as a pilot programme in the southern city of Tampere schools in Finland. Elias is not an ordinary teacher like us, it can understand and speak 23 languages and is equipped with software that allows it to understand students requirements and helps it to encourage learning. This robot recognizes the pupils’ skill level and adjusts its questions accordingly. It also gives feedback to teachers about a student’s possible learning difficulties or deficiencies.
Elias, stands around a foot tall, and is based on ‘Soft Banks’ NAO humanoid interactive companion robot, with software developed by Utelias, a developer of educational software for social robots. The robots are in the pipeline or in the laboratories now.
There is a widespread concern over the potential impact of the 4IR on employment. Whether Elias can replace a teacher in the classroom? It is a fact that 16 workers committed suicide recently at Taiwanese manufacturer, Foxconn’s factory in Shenzhen which assembles Apple’s iPhones, and iPads. The Shenzhen alone now employs 60, 000 plus robots which replaced more than 1 lakh employees during the last 4 years.
What will be the classrooms of the future be like?
Emerging technologies such as cloud computing, augmented reality (AR) and 3D Printing are paving the way for the new classrooms. Virtual field trips are possible with augmented reality. It will be very interesting for children to learn history when topics like Taj Mahal are being taught in primary classes. 3D printers in the classroom will lead to teachers being able to reconstruct complex models to teach theoretical concepts. The digital library will be accessible even in a campus where there is no hardware library. With the help of cloud computing, schools will be setting up online learning platforms for students to log on an attend classes in a virtual environment. Social networks allow students to share their ideas freely, while teachers moderate. Social networking tools will be incorporated to enhance collaboration and team building initiative. No doubt, laptops and smart phones will be replaced. An extremely light, paper thin, A 4-sized digital paper prototype will be used in future classrooms.
School Security Systems in American schools:
The recent school firing in the US opened the door for new debate on students’ security and safety at schools. The scientific and engineering community, however ,are proposing new technology driven security solutions using new biometric security processes, artificial intelligence and mobile Tele presence robots, voice recognition devices, unobstructive video and so on. Tele-bot (Tele presence robots) designed for schools could provide pleasing, entertaining and educational devices, easily accepted into school community without fear of disrupting classroom activities or smooth school environment.
But now the question arises. When it will happen here? It is a known fact that Qatar is the first county which made 5G services available now (2018). Let us explore and implore the technological breakthrough. The following examples which definitely open our eyes and bring this technology related developments happening worldwide into our subconscious mind. We are the active customers of Uber taxi services. Aren’t we? What is Uber? Uber is only a software having no car of own but it is managing/regulates the largest taxi services in the world. Similarly, Airbnb is the largest network of hotels which operates in 190 countries or 34000 cities without having a single hotel ownership. Paytm, Ola cabs, Oyo rooms and so on. are other examples.IBM Watson is a legal software which is replacing young lawyers in USA from their job. The same case of ‘Watson’, a healthcare software which can detect cancer faster than oncologists.
Visualize a situation in the near future with driverless cars or hybrid cars on the road which will dramatically reduce traffic density, air pollution as well as reducing the consumption of petroleum products by 90%.

The author is Principal, Doon International School, Srinagar. He can be reached at: mail-mramachandrankurup@gmail.com