Posted by: crudbasher | July 16, 2010

Will Teachers be Replaced by Computers?

There is no bigger hot button than telling someone they might lose their job.  What is even worse is to tell them their whole job type will be obsolete.

I’m not here to say that… Yet.

Ok so here’s the deal.  Right now our Education system is very low tech and labor intensive.  Many other industries used to be like that.  For example, look at farming. 200 years ago 90% of the US population farmed.  Today it’s about 1-2%.  (source)  What happened is technology and modern farming methods have vastly improved efficiency.

Now I know what you are thinking, children aren’t carrots.  They are individuals that have their own hopes, dreams and skills.  That’s true, however our current education system doesn’t treat them like children either.  It treats them like identical products that are produced from the school factory.

I think every teacher who reads this agrees that we wish our education system produced better quality children.  You have to realize though that standardization of teaching will produce a standardized product.  Children aren’t being put in a situation where they can fully develop what their skills and talents are.  I have been pondering what the single biggest factor in this failure is, and I have a good post brewing for next week.  For now consider this:

The best way to teach someone something is with a 1:1 teacher to student ratio. Yes that’s right, if every kid had their own personal teacher, that would be ideal.  A few centuries ago, the children of the rich learned like this.  The problem with that system is it doesn’t scale well.  I don’t get bent out of shape by people who argue for smaller class sizes; I figure once you go over 1 student, it changes the dynamics. So what is going to happen here?

Back to replacing teacher with computers.  Within 10 years, computer technology will have advanced to the point where you will be able to have a personal tutor always with you.  From a very young age, the personal tutor will help guide the child to explore their gifts and talents. The tutor will be able to download free/low cost lessons from the net at any appropriate time.  For example: if a child goes to the zoo, the tutor will be able to provide lessons on what their are seeing and experiencing. The parents will be always kept informed of how their child is developing.  Learning will happen at any time, in any place, and for however long it takes.

Now I know what you are thinking again. (Hmm blog mind reading!) You can’t make a connection with a piece of technology!!!!  Really?  I have a GPS unit in my car.  I call her Alice.  (To the Moon Alice!)  Have you ever named a piece of technology?  Named your car? Computer?  It’s amazing that when a technology starts acting like it has a personality, we tend to anthropomorphize it.  We know these things aren’t real and don’t have personalities, and yet we still do it.  Children today spend a lot of time with friends they only know from online.  I submit that these children will readily take to computer based tutors and will even think of them as friends.

Does this mean that teachers will be replaced completely?  Nope.  There are still lots of farmers around today.  It’s just that we don’t need 50,000 teachers teaching English at the same time in the same way to little groups of kids.  Technology can make things much more efficient in some areas of education.  In a regular business, this would have happened already, but of course public education is not a business.  There are a lot of other factors involved that like having an army of teachers around.

The future is coming like a Stormfront.  The one thing I can leave you with, is this:  Nothing is certain now.  All of your conceptions of education are now up for review. All of them, including if you need a teacher at all.

I am interested in if people agree or disagree with my thinking. Please comment if you want to discuss this!

Check out this video and imagine your kids growing up with a similar system on their cell phone.  Also there was an article in the NYT called Students, Meet your New Teacher, Mr. Robot.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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Responses

  1. You are right, all of our conceptions of education must be reviewed, but I think teachers will always be needed. What we have to change is the way teachers are prepared to be in the teaching profession. We’d like to use technology in our classrooms, but we haven’t been taught about how to do it. Our students know, we don’t, so we are afraid of it.

    • Hey Juan thanks for commenting! I agree that teacher training on using technology will help the current system.

      Did you have any specific reasons as to why we will always need teachers?

    • Yes students are more tech savvy than teachers for the most part and while this is “scary” to teaching….it can be overcome. It is critical we place a huge importance on professional development for teachers to learn technology and how to integrate it into teaching, otherwise the gap will become larger and less students will gain that human exchange with a teacher that no computer can replace no matter how advanced the computer is. I like the statement that “if a teacher can be replaced by a computer, they should be” meaning the teacher is lacking the most influential and effective part of the quotient which is caring and compassion. If humans on a basic level need to be loved, appreciated, encouraged….we cannot rely on a computer to foster this as a reality, it would just be a programed response.

  2. I think this will happen but maybe look different an we expect. 1 to 1 classrooms are embarking on this ability to differentiate for each student. It is one of the wonderful thing about technology that it can make us more effective and efficient. But because of the importance society places on human relationship (and I think this is because it is part of our makeup) teachers will never be totally replaced. One thing is for sure, the classroom as we know it will look different.

  3. One important aspect that’s missing in robots is the human emotion. If a robot would be used to teach preschoolers, there would be a tremendous lack of human emotion. Particularly at that young age, wherein the understanding of kids are limited yet there curiosity boundless.

    • I see what you are talking about. Right now computers and robots are seriously lacking in emotions and empathy. I don’t think that situation is impossible to solve though. I don’t know if computers can get emotions, but I bet at some point they can fake it well enough to fool most people. I do wonder if preschoolers might take to robots even faster than most people though? Imagine a teddy bear that could actually talk, walk and interact with the child? Imagine if the teddy bear can play with and teach the child? Won’t a bond be established there?

      I still won’t set a limit on what is possible eventually.

      Thanks very much for commenting and contributing to the discussion!

  4. Ahh- this is always a something I think about. when it comes to ethics in education (which this is kind of an ethical issue) I always refer to Star Trek, specifically TNG. Even at Star Fleet Academy, on the gigantic Enterprise, or on a Space Station (deep Space Nine), they still have live instructors. But the differences: smaller classrooms, more of a Montessori approach. Interesting….

    • Oh so you like Star Trek too? I knew there was a reason we clicked so fast!! :)

      The thing I thought Star Trek got wrong was they completely underestimated how much computers will change society. Especially by the 23rd or 24th century! I wonder how much longer we will be able to watch Star Trek and have it even be relevant??

      Thanks for commenting!!

  5. [...] interaction, we’ve seen prototypes teach children in schools (in fact this blog caught my eye; Will teachers be replaced by computers?) and at Cambridge University they have developed a machine that can analyse millions of papers in [...]

  6. Can any one guide me how to install this free Google Course Managementnt System

    Ammar
    ammar@brain.net.pk

  7. i m having a debate in my school on ‘due to rapid technological changes teachers will become irrelevant’ can u help me out in this by giving me some matter in FOR and AGAINST both?

  8. [...] have on several occasions speculated that the model of school where all the students come together and have a [...]


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