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Mumbai's Alexa-inspired 'robo-teacher' excites students, answers questions on weather to general information

Mumbai's 'robo-teacher'. Photograph:( WION )

WION Mumbai, Maharashtra, India Mar 19, 2019, 10.15 PM (IST) Written By: Pragya Jha

A school in Maharashtra's capital Mumbai has introduced a virtual teacher to its students. The 'robo-teacher', as students fondly call it, teaches them mathematics, science and languages.

The teacher interacts with students through a voice interface and answers their questions ranging from weather updates to general information.

The 'robo-teacher' is a hit with students; the attendance record has actually improved as students are excited to come back with questions.

The novel idea to introduce a voice interface enabled teacher is the brainchild of a teacher, Pooja Sankhe. She introduced the virtual assistant almost a year ago, at Ramakrishna Paramhans Marathi school run by BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

"I am always keen to incorporate new ways into my teaching, and the virtual teacher does exactly that. Students are learning questioning skills and researching to come up with new questions. This is also an attempt to improve their English language skills," she told WION.

Sankhe got the idea of creating this teacher after using Amazon's voice assistant Alexa. She merged the voice interface with a mannequin to give education a scientific touch. 

She adds, "other government schools in the city have also got in touch with me to create their virtual teacher. Each virtual assistant comes at a cost of rupees ten thousand, which includes the Alexa device and externally sourced mannequin."

In 2018, Pooja Sankhe was honoured with the Best teacher award for her novel contribution to school education.

Civic schools in India offer subsidised education to all sections of society. They cater to a large number of students in modest set-ups. But one of the biggest problems they face is low attendance.

The "robo-teacher" aims to change that. Sankhe's idea has caught the attention of many government schools in Maharashtra; they are turning to virtual teaching to aid traditional curriculum. And excited students are eager to use this technology in their course of learning.

Story highlights

The 'robo-teacher' is a hit with students; the attendance record has actually improved as students are excited to come back with questions.