Thursday, May 17, 2018

Are Robots Going to Replace Teachers?

As computers get faster and smarter, it stands to reason that robots and artificial intelligence will replace any job that they are able to do more cost effectively.

If a robot can do it just as well for cheaper, it will.

What does this mean for teaching? Will robots replace teachers? Some researchers believe so. They claim that artificial intelligence will have the ability to teach children more effectively than humans within ten years.

I believe this conclusion is based on false assumptions about the purpose of education and what teachers do. Teaching is more than assessing students’ academic needs and providing the correct content. Schools are more than places where children are prepared for the workforce. Our educations systems were created to serve society, not to be places where individuals are molded into compliant automatons.

If we want a future where citizens do exactly as they are told, ignore the suffering of others, operate without moral guidelines, and react to stimuli instead of proactively creating the kind of world they want, then robot teachers will be perfect. After all, these are the qualities of computers.

I believe that we desire more than that out of our education systems.

In the book I recently authored with five other Global Teacher Prize Finalist, Teaching in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Standing at the Precipice, we look at dozens of teachers who are exceptional at preparing their students for a complex, technological future. At the heart of each of their work is the ability to make human connections and to build relationships with students.
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This is something that a machine will never be able to do, regardless of how many calculations per second it is able to compute.

Robots will only replace teachers if we allow teaching to become automatable. If we allow our profession to continue the trend toward scripted lessons being read out of teacher manuals, distribution of mind-numbing worksheets, and preparing children for mass-produced high-stakes standardized tests, we will be replaced.

Instead we must ensure that teaching remains a job rooted in humanity, emotionally connecting with both children and content, and love. This will not only prevent machines from taking our jobs, it will also give our students the education they deserve.

As technological innovation advances the possibilities available to us in education and society, we must be very intentional about the learning experiences we provide our children. We must allow them to think critically about their communities – local, national, and global, and encourage them to use new technologies to improve the world around them. Empathy and compassion must be the driving forces behind the way we teach our children to use technology.

This is the way to prepare our students to be leaders in a democratic society. Democracy only works if those who are being governed are empowered. Equity and empowerment go hand in hand, and empathy can be a driving force for closing equity gaps.

As technology continues to advance rapidly, it will have both the power to unite and divide us. The path we choose – unity or division – will largely depend on the choices we make in our classrooms and education systems.

Let us choose to keep education grounded in the best parts of humanity.