Will Technology Make Teachers Obsolete?
There’s a lot of discussion about automation and what it will mean for routine jobs in fast food, factories and trucking companies. Are we really facing a future of robot workers and self-driving trucks? Will Technology Replace Teachers? (You Be the Judge) will shine a little light on the discussion.
Are Virtual Teachers Next?
As teachers, you’re probably aware of the push for technical solutions to your classroom problems. Virtual classrooms already exist for online colleges, but they are still managed by human teachers. Virtual teachers might be part of our future if these trends continue.
Technology In the Classroom: Will It Make Teachers Obsolete?
As a new installment of the Terminator movies hits the big screen, maybe you’re thinking about androids or robots working as teachers. If businesses can use robots to work in factories, at cash registers or to drive big rigs, are schools far behind?
It might be too soon to worry. Technology can help with some parts of teaching, but it’s still missing the human element.
Electronic learning and other tools can help teachers deal with the mundane, routine parts of teaching. Many teachers have embraced these solutions to keeping classroom lists, scoring tests and other regular activities.
This type of learning has its limits, however. According to a 2018 article in Forbes magazine, shared, life experiences are integral to learning:
“Students naturally learn from one another while solving problems and working collaboratively in a traditional classroom. They’re validated and encouraged by face-to-face time with a teacher that doesn’t come from a recorded video.
E-learning has yet to find a way to truly imitate that.”
The Dark Side of Technology
It’s no secret that technology is present in classrooms everywhere. In earlier articles, we looked at schools who are moving away from using computers or any type of technology in the classroom.
We also looked at the growing trend of affluent Silicon Valley professionals who refuse to allow their children to use electronic devices at home.
It’s clear that many people don’t think technology should be central in our lives or in our schools. At the same time, more schools are adopting technology and requiring teachers to use it.
Are Schools Relying on Technology Too Much?
The organization FairTest is a harsh critic of most new teaching technology. FairTest has been instrumental in calling out the problems of standardized testing. The organization sees several problems with the push for new technology that goes by the euphemism “personalized learning.”
According to FairTest, these programs:
- Perpetuate standardized, test-driven teaching.
- Remove personal autonomy from teachers and students by selecting materials and coursework for them.
- Collect huge amounts of personal data from students who use them.
- Create new hurdles for parents who don’t want their children using them.
Worst of all, FairTest notes, “After several decades, researchers have seen little positive impact from educational technology. Meanwhile, researchers warn of a range of negative consequences from overexposure to technology and screen time. These include damage to intellectual, physical and emotional development, threats to privacy and, ironically, increased standardization.”
Will Teachers Just Become Facilitators?
In a 2017 article for the Atlantic Monthly, Kentucky teacher Paul Barnwell detailed his long history of using technology as a type of classroom assistant. At first skeptical about its usefulness, he eventually came to accept that a technical program called Reading Plus could help him personalize lesson plans for students who needed extra help.
Ready to Escape Your Classroom?
Doing What Teachers Can’t
He describes having to design reading plans for 27 students who are either not native speakers or otherwise need to catch up on their reading levels. It was a relief to be able to let the Reading Plus program do this.
“I’ve earned an undergraduate degree in American literature, a master’s in teaching and a master’s in English literature,” Barnwell writes. “These credentials haven’t equipped me with the necessary background or skills to significantly improve my students’ reading ability. I’m not trained as a reading specialist. Even if I were, how could I possibly create 27 customized lessons? Maybe Reading Plus can do some of what I can’t.”
At the same time, Barnwell writes, it’s important to not let technology take over completely. The human dynamics are still necessary for good teaching.
“I can still do my best to impart a love of writing, attempt to spark passions, encourage curiosity, foster discussions, smile, laugh and interact with the students in ways a screen can’t,” he concludes.
Teachers Must Adapt Like Other Professionals
The future may not be that bleak for teachers. There is something irreplaceable about the human connection teachers bring to their students and classrooms.
Teacher Larry Strauss writes in the Huffington Post about watching his father and uncle face obsolescence in their chosen careers. He describes how both men had to learn to adapt to survive. Teachers, he notes, need to learn a similar lesson.
“Some children, at various times in their lives, may actually learn better from a well-programmed computer than a person,” Strauss writes. “We ought to recognize that and use whatever resources we have available to help every child we can. On the other hand, we all, teachers and everyone else who cares about them, vehemently oppose the false idea that all children can learn better from computers and other technology. Those devices are tools for educators. They do not replace human teachers, and I sure as hell hope they never do.”
The Human Element Is Still Key
Sal Khan, a developer who created the technology-based Khan Academy, wrote in Fast Company recently that, “If given the choice between a great teacher and the world’s most advanced education technology, I’d pick the teacher any day for my own children. Fortunately, we don’t have to choose between teachers and technology. Technology is you used when it empowers teachers and students to create personalized, accessible, creative learning experiences. We just have to be careful to view it as a means to this end rather than an end unto itself.”
Teachers: Are You Prepared for the New Technology?
If you’re a teacher, are you worried about being displaced by technology? How much technology is your school system using? Let us know what the upsides and downsides are in your experience.
Maybe you’ve decided it’s time to move your teaching to a whole new technological level. Maybe you’re ready to offer your own courses on a website of your own?
Teachers Pay Teachers and Senor Wooly are two great examples. The call for online learning continues to grow at an amazing rate. Why not investigate it for yourself? This link will take you to my article focused just for teachers.