Will technology ever replace the teacher?
This is a question that seems to come up often within education circles. At university we regularly had to think about this topic and debate our point of view with our peers. While still studying, I visited a school where they asked the students to talk about the kinds of jobs that won’t be necessary in the future because of technology. Interestingly, ‘teachers’ came up.
To be honest, when I first heard the question I was a little shocked. I had never thought about jobs being replaced by technology – well, at least not jobs like teaching. If I ever thought of technology taking away jobs I thought about machines and factories. Surely there is a limit to what technology can do? After getting through the stage of shock, I actually became genuinely worried. I considered how rapidly technology is developing and how it has influenced our lives already. I thought about how often it is used in the classroom, how well children can navigate technological devices, how easily accessible information is, how many different apps there are, how technology can be used to collaborate or connect with others, how it can be used to present work, how it can aid communication between teaching staff and parents, how programs can be designed to cater for children at different stages of learning, how multi-sensory it can be and how much easier it makes assessment and reporting. I felt as though I was training for a job that would inevitably be redundant before I had gotten much out of it.
Now, though, I feel differently. I don’t believe that technology will ever replace teachers. First of all, anyone who still thinks that it is a teacher’s job to merely transfer information is clearly misguided. Obviously, if this were the case, a computer would suffice. Nor is it our job to simply design programs that cater for different students. Again, that could be easily done without the need for a teacher. While I do believe that we should be guiding students to direct their own learning, and that technology plays a significant and useful role in education, there is a human element of the profession that is not something that is secondary but core to our role. If there were no longer teachers in classrooms I believe that we would be taking a step backwards, not forwards. We would be going back to a time where students had to manage their own learning and school was about obtaining the right amount of knowledge rather than gaining experience; a time where exploration and experimentation with the physical world was not part of the curriculum; a time when creative expression was not nurtured but avoided. Also, while the rise in social media has made it easier to ‘connect’ with each other, is it really healthy for our relationships to be established through a screen and maintained through the use of emoticons? When it comes down to it, if there is ever a day when teachers are removed from the classroom to make way for new technologies, schools will become bleak and unpleasant places. Sure, kids may still learn a lot, but I would like to stress that ‘knowledge’ and ‘education’ are not the same thing. Teachers are there to help students navigate through life, not just through the curriculum. Bill Gates himself said: ‘Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.’
(Originally posted February 22, 2016)