Posted by: crudbasher | January 18, 2011

Will Teachers Be Replaced By Machines?

Here are two somewhat unrelated articles that I will attempt to relate.  First is a nice blog post by Jeff Utecht on The Thinking Stick blog.  He was asked a question about if he thinks teachers will be replaced by computers.

He replied:

we’re not going to be replaced by machines, but individual teachers will, I believe, be replaced by communities of learners. In those communities everyone will be a teacher and everyone will be a learner. We might not even distinguish between them. Once students and schools figure out they can learn, what they want to learn, when they want to learn, in always on, always supporting communities then the day of the stand and teach teacher is over.

I agree with him completely however I think his answer is missing something important.  That leads to this other story.  IBM has developed a computer called Watson that can answer questions asked to it in realtime.  They put it on Jeopardy against some former Jeopardy champions.

IBM’s ‘Watson’ supercomputer has been preparing for its stint on Jeopardy for a long time. In April of 2009, the company revealed its plans to build a question answering (QA) computing system – codenamed Watson – that could understand complex questions and answer with enough precision and speed to compete on the TV show Jeopardy!. … Last week, Watson headed to upstate New York to go head-to-head with Jeopardy legends Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.

Engadget reports that Watson didn’t answer a single question incorrectly and by the end of the game was ahead with $4,400 (Ken had $3,400, and Brad had $1,200).

The part I think Jeff was missing was these learning communities will be composed of both humans and computers.  In fact, as computers get better at interacting with people, you might not even realize you are interacting with a machine.  I see a network composed like this as a very powerful learning tool.  Computers can handle the basics of researching and reporting, and humans can handle critical thinking and insights.

So, will machines replace teachers?  No, but they will replace parts of the teachers job.  Only small parts at first, but more and more as capabilities grow.  It has already started.  Don’t believe me?  Have you ever used a scantron machine? 🙂

As always I invite comments! What do you all think?

  • Teachers replaced by learning communities

    tags: education robot teaching teachers nell

    • I got into a conversation with one teachers about whether I believed that teachers would be replaced by machines.

       

    • I agree with you…we’re not going to be replaced by machines, but individual teachers will, I believe, be replaced by communities of learners. In those communities everyone will be a teacher and everyone will be a learner. We might not even distinguish between them. Once students and schools figure out they can learn, what they want to learn, when they want to learn, in always on, always supporting communities then the day of the stand and teach teacher is over.

       

    • We have the tools….it’s the Internet. All we need is a switch. Maybe University of the People is that switch. Once this generation, or their kids generation figures out that school can be just like that community they have on the Xbox…..then you, the individual teacher will be replaced by a community.

       

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

Watson question answering computer

tags: technology robot

  • IBM’s ‘Watson’ supercomputer has been preparing for its stint on Jeopardy for a long time. In April of 2009, the company revealed its plans to build a question answering (QA) computing system – codenamed Watson – that could understand complex questions and answer with enough precision and speed to compete on the TV show Jeopardy!.

     

  • Last week, Watson headed to upstate New York to go head-to-head with Jeopardy legends Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.

     

  • Engadget reports that Watson didn’t answer a single question incorrectly and by the end of the game was ahead with $4,400 (Ken had $3,400, and Brad had $1,200).

     

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Responses

  1. From my experience working with high school students, some students want a teacher to be involved with their learning while others are fine learning without a one. I’ve had more than a few students tell me they hate learning things on the computer.They want a teacher to teach them whatever. Other students are quite happy learning on their own using technology. Perhaps preferring to learn with a person and preferring to learning without a person will be two new learning modalities to ad to visual learning , auditory learning or kinesthetic learning. I’m not sure what we would call the two new modalities.

  2. Hey Elona!
    That is a really interesting idea! Perhaps some students will prefer to learn certain things with a real person, and some will be better with an interactive system? I totally support this because what I think the goal of the education system should be is to get each learner the exact best environment to maximize outcomes. This would be just more choices right?
    Thanks for commenting!!

  3. Like it…now were do I find me some computers to learn from? Wait…last night I learned to build an android app with no other human contact…..weird. 😉

    • Heh nice. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Well, Kurzweil would have us believe there will eventually be biological and machine humans… but seriously (I’m not buying his view personally), I think we do need to consider what “computer” will mean in 10, 20 years. Certainly not what we think of now. IE, students learning with/from a computer today may or may not enjoy the experience or it may not be their preferred learning style. But, what if the computer was more huminoid like, able to “converse” like a human, and was able to assess the student’s needs and adapt to them? That would be a game changer.

    Anyway, I believe that the learning community will be a mixture of lead teachers, learning facilitators, some of which will be human and some will be more huminoid… crazy future coming our way!

    • Hey Brian,

      I wonder about the whole blended machine and human thing too. Right now we have artificial hearts, pacemakers and all sorts of other machine parts available. The big one will be if/when we can directly link computers to the brain. Since they both work on electrical signals, I think it will be possible.

      I do agree that computers will look vastly different in 10-20 years. If you look at the trends in computer interfaces, it has been for the interface to become more intuitive and less intrusive over time. If you extrapolate out, you get to something like Augmented Reality where data from the net is meshed with reality.

      One day in a few years, I think smartphones will have evolved to become personal assistants, able to do their own thing based on direction from the user. At this point, they can become teachers too, and therefore a node in your learning network.

      You are exactly right, it’s going to be crazy!! 🙂

      Thanks so much for commenting, it’s always good to see you here!

  5. […] and phones much more powerful and last longer. I have speculated for the last year about AI based learning systems. In order to do that sort of thing you will need much more computing power than what we […]

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


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