The Simple Things of Education

Sometimes, nurturing and educating a child can seem more like an enigma or a theoretical ideal than an achievable goal. This is felt on an individual level, when thousands of books, magazine, and commentators float around offering contradictory advice, but it could also seem that way on a societal level. It’s a common fact that the socioeconomic status of a child is the top predictor in his or her educational outcome. Coupled with how intrinsic inequality in SES is in our society, it could seem impossible to fix educational deficiencies on a societal level.

However, despite these massive and seemingly overwhelming correlations, there are many simple actions that can be done on a personal parent to child level that have huge impacts on life outcomes. A post-WWII study in Britain, tracking some 14,000 babies born in 1946, unveiled several basic actions that led to disproportionately successful outcomes for their recipients. These include talking and listening to kids, teaching letters and numbers, reading to kids, and maintaining a regular bedtime.

Perhaps some of the given suggestions, such as taking children on excursions outside, could only be achieved through more active parenting. However, many of these can be supplanted with external help. A chatbot (such as the one I am developing) can remind children of bedtimes easily using pre-existing notification concepts. A little more development, and it can incorporate teaching of letters and read stories. Using contextual AI, it has a good shot of talking and listening in a roughly similar manner to an adult.

Much of this sentiment is echoed in the development of the new mentor robot Moxie. Already, it functions much like an actual human both physically and in social interactions. However, if we focus all our attention on visibly sci-fi concepts such as these, we risk losing the idea of new technology allowing us to reduce inequities and improve educational outcomes for everybody through increased accessibility. Indeed, first developed as a specialist solution for kids with special needs, Moxie is now on the general market for a price of $1699, on the market for kids whose parents can afford to spend that kind of money on unproven technologies that have a history of failing.

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