Posted by: crudbasher | April 1, 2011

Are You A Factory Teacher?

H/T 21st Century Fluency Project

I saw this really interesting video on Youtube about how books were made in 1947. This sparked an observation about teaching which I will share after the video.

The first observation is if you were to go down the street from that factory to a school, how similar would it have been to today’s schools? I think it has changed less than the bookmaker’s factory.

Second, did you notice how many people were involved in that process? Like many factories back then they were very labor intensive.  Today you wouldn’t have nearly that many people. In fact there was only one person in that whole video who you still need today: The writer.

How does this apply to education? Like making a book, the job of a teacher can be broken down into many parts.  The parts that are very repetitive will be replaced by technology. In fact in the future I think teachers will be mostly creators of educational materials, and not presenters of said material.

So here’s the bottom line. If your class is like a factory and you treat the students all the same, the more likely you will be to be replaced by technology. The more your class is different from year to year the less likely you are to be replaced with technology. Look carefully at how you do your job and think about how you can customize it for your students. It’s better for them and is better for you. You don’t want to be a factory teacher.



  1. I think this applies to jobs in general. If a job can be outsourced for less money, it will be, if it can be automated for even less, it will be. The role of teachers certainly can’t be about filling minds – machines can do that. Teachers are key though to helping kids learn new skills, make sense of our world, excite them about history, math, reading – deep reading, etc. Teachers need to be motivators, coaches, guides, and sometimes lecturers – it all depends on the type of students they are working with. The approach should be personalized. So I agree, a factory model of school won’t work today or going forward. But I think the same can and will be said of many jobs… we must choose wisely what we will be…

    • I totally agree Brian. I don’t talk much about robotics on this site but that is a huge disruptive technology for the future. As I walk around society each day, I look at all the jobs that are very repetitive in nature. Those could all be gone someday. The definite trend in the labor market is towards more efficiency. This means less workers can do more work with technology. I don’t see why this won’t apply to Education as well as time goes on. In fact I think it should be further along than it is but there are outside forces insulating it from technology to a certain extent.

      Thanks so much for posting such an insightful comment!

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