technology vs teachers-an International teacher’s day debate

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Technology is a game-changer, it has helped teachers to create active learning environments, increase assess to content, differentiate for varied student needs and very recently even teach remotely. Throughout the history of technical innovations, technology has aided the art of teaching but not yet replaced the artist, in this case, the teacher.

On the occasion of International Teacher’s Day on 5th October, a question was discussed: Can technology replace teachers? in a professional learning community (PLC) forum. The overwhelming response was in favour of teachers and almost everyone believed that technology cannot replace teachers. Ironically, in this very forum, we all are learning sans a teacher! This made me realise that teachers have been replaced from their traditional role of lecturing, teaching and being the knowledgeable other by technology. As professional development has increasingly become technology-driven, a lot of learning is happening without the teacher.

Let us examine the current teaching interface in many schools and universities across the world. Students use a computer to log into a website, download content, check the assigned tasks and complete the tasks with the help of technology or through online research. So where is the teacher? There might be a facilitator, not a teacher depending on the nature of the topic/subject. There are many teachers at this moment completing professional development delivered without a teacher, there might be an instructor or facilitator to manage the logistics of the online modules, but mostly all learning takes place without a teacher. Therefore, is it accurate to say that technology is replacing teachers? Moreover, with artificial intelligence barging its way through every threshold, it is a matter of time that teachers will be completely replaced by technology.

There is another way of looking at this developing scenario. The teacher as a human being. We cannot overlook the social-emotional benefits of having a human leading the job of teaching. Teachers do more than one way or one task at a time. The job of a teacher is not just to deliver instructions, it is also to gauge the students’ context, ability and interest in the topic to modify it constantly. As a teacher, I always keep changing plans in the classroom to be engaging and responsive to my students’ needs. In a real-world scenario, things evolve and change every minute, therefore being dynamic and constantly improvising is a teacher’s job. One cannot rely on pre-programmed instructions to think independently and find instant on the spot solutions. One thing is sure, technology may not replace teachers but it will replace teachers who cannot harness or use technology.

An automated teacher robot or artificial intelligence would be great to deliver content, but it will not be able to make decisions or judgements related to human emotions, for example, sometimes students are too tired to solve problems hence reinforcing concepts is a better strategy to teach tired brains instead of introducing new concepts. These decisions that require humans to consider emotions and feelings cannot be mastered by the robot. Even though in recent years artificial intelligence has taken over a lot of iterative mechanised jobs, it is yet to start teaching full time in a classroom. One can use technology to aid the process of teaching but not completely replace a teacher’s cognitive, intuitive approaches to teaching.

Teachers take on the caring role of a parent’s stead, they advocate for students who might be otherwise forgotten, and they shape a nation’s future (Fedena, 2018). Therefore it might be even dangerous to hand over these crucial responsibilities to a machine or an interface. With a geometrical progression in technology, machines might soon be able to develop the ability to be just like humans but not humans. It is therefore a responsibility as humans to make an ethical decision of how much to give to the robots or how much to replace humans with robots. “Many education reformers outside of Silicon Valley say no. The people in the Valley think technology will solve everything. It won’t. There’s a human side to education that won’t go away” (Norris & Soloway, 2016, p. 63).

In summary, the decision to replace a teacher in the classroom with a robot needs ethical considerations, as we are interfering in the process of character building early on in the formative years of young children. If we want our children to develop kindness, emotional intelligence and empathy we need to model it the human way, not the robot way. 

References

Fedena. (2018).Technology vs Teachers: Can technology replace teachers?  https://fedena.com/blog/2018/05/teachers-vs-technology-can-technology-replace-teachers.html

Norris, C., & Soloway, E. (2016). Uberizing K-12: Use Software… But Keep the Teachers, Too! Educational Technology, 56(1), 61–63. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44430450

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