Are We ‘Tech’ing out the Teacher

Humans are innately creative. Although we can’t all win a Pulitzer or a Nobel or a Turner prize, we are creative in many small ways. It could be in the way managers energize teams, parents find efficient ways to wrap up chores, kids upcycling garbage as part of a craft class, or even hoarders stacking things they collect. 

Where do we learn, explores the fact that we don’t always learn in a single place from a single person. Although this is a fact, it is also a fact, that over the last few centuries, we have put in place a school system meant for our young to learn. It is also meant to ready them for an economy that is now in deep flux. 

Schools Prepare Their Wards

Schools are gearing up their wards for an economy and society which is predominantly digital in nature. As devices make their way into homes and offices, they have also captured one of the largest markets on the planet – schools. 

The digitization list started with whiteboards but now includes tablets, gamification of curriculum, virtual homework help, MOOCs, digital textbooks, platforms for testing, use of social media in classrooms, artificial intelligence(AI), augmented reality tools etc. The list is long and much of it involves large budget outlays.  

The Role of a Teacher

There was a time when a teacher taught, and a great teacher inspired, the student. Today the teacher, regular or great, has to teach and weave tech into their class in multiple ways. With technology changing at a rapid pace, it’s not uncommon for teachers to feel that they are being constantly tested. Not about their teaching capabilities, but about their ability to weave tech into their class. Frequently, students might also be a tad ahead in the use of technology being used in class, and this just makes class handling more challenging. 

The Role of Tech

When textbooks were first introduced in compulsory education, it was because the technologically advanced printing press made it affordable to print them. All the students had a copy of standard readers. 

Just like that, when whiteboards and electronic screens became affordable, they were introduced into the classroom. In both cases, technology was introduced into the classroom to supplement teaching, and to make it more interesting.

With the introduction of AI technology in education, it is different. Here kids wear headphones and interact with a laptop running an AI algorithm to teach subjects of choice. Teachers hover to help only when there is confusion. The algorithms learn from how the student performs to curate tests which will help them improve. AI helps students in China in what is termed as ‘intelligent education’. They are tutored to improve on standardized testing. This has had resounding success with millions of students signing up in China, and there is a push to introduce this in the US. There is a murmur about the teacher becoming redundant in class. 

Way Ahead

The cacophony of tech is drowning out the purpose(s) of education, which itself has morphed through modern times. Reform in education is continuous, as it should be; to weed out the unnecessary and to bring in the fresh is inescapable. There was a reason certain old cultures of Asia called the teacher a guru. The teacher was instrumental in opening the minds of the young to the possibilities in life – an awakening of sorts. 

We need teachers. We have learned much from ours – our sense of equity, the way we deconstruct a problem, learn from failure, deal with a variety of pupils, build a sense of oneness in a disparate class, dress, construct sentences, and many other things we might not even know we have learned. 

The teacher’s role is to help the student understand what they can achieve and guide them towards that. Although this sounds simple, it is one of the most complex challenges teachers have. They help shape the future of humankind, not something to be trifled with. Teachers will use all the tools at their disposal – one-on-one teaching, class lectures, digital devices, AI, outdoor trips, inviting guest lectures, sternness, sharing stories – to teach, and that is their prerogative. 

Let us help them with what they need to educate our young – tech or otherwise. 

Author Bio: Sophia Sanchez is a newbie online ESL/EFL instructor. She is a passionate educator and blogs about education on her personal blog. She found her true calling — teaching — while she was juggling writing and a 9-5 desk job. When Sophia is not busy earning a living, she volunteers as a social worker. Her active online presence demonstrates her strong belief in the power of networking.

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