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Will computers make teachers obsolete?

  • Teaching has long been seen as a noble profession as teachers are responsible for educating the population. But the role of teachers in the educational system is increasingly being threatened by the day. Technology enthusiasts are claiming that in some years to come, there won’t be a need for teachers as computer-based learning would replace them. People like Richard Galant and Andy Kessler have argued that the vast amount of information on the internet, as well as improvements in online instruction and adaptive learning, are the beginning of the end of teachers in our educational system. But proponents of computer-based learning are not keeping quiet.

    Wendy Kopp and other teacher advocates are staunch supporters of the role of teachers in the classroom, and their arguments are supported by a large body of research that shows the importance of teachers to the learning process.

    If we take a holistic look at the turn of events in every industry where computers have been introduced, the situation for the human actors is quite alarming. In the automotive industry, thousands of people have lost their livelihood to robots churning out cars at speeds no human can ever manage. The same applies to every other sector where computers have been given an assistant role.

    In an article published in the Huff Post, teacher Larry Strauss narrated how his father lost his job due to the digitisation of the industry. He also laments how computers are taking a more significant role in the instruction of students in the classroom. According to Larry, computers unarguably play an essential part in the learning process, but he believes humans have a more critical and nobler role to play.

    When he walks into the school and sees bored students whiling away their boredom on tier mobile devices, he thinks about how to integrate computers to make them more efficient in the learning process. According to him, teachers must never live under the false security that their roles are secured. Teachers must continuously update themselves to become better teachers, lest computers become more efficient instructors and displace them from the classroom.

    According to Thomas Arnett of the Christensen Institute, people who claim that computers will replace teachers in the classroom often fail to realise the true worth of teachers. Teachers do more than instruct and assess papers. The job of a teacher is a complex and broad undertaking. Even though it can be argued that computers are increasingly getting better at delivering personalised direct instruction and assessing student competencies of foundational knowledge, they still fall short of teachers.

    Arnott posits that high-quality teachers provide their students' guidance through projects and activities that help them develop strong analytical and problem-solving skills that can be applied to real-life situations. They also provide students actionable feedback, encourage them to become hardworking and disciplined, and give everything their students need to succeed academically and socially. No computer can do this like a human.

    However, there is no gainsaying that computers make the work of a teacher easier to do. Teachers are expected to create daily lesson plans, organise student learning activities, pass instruction, examine and grade student assessment as well as many other functions. Surely, you don’t expect the teacher to be perfect after getting through this type of workload. This kind of workload is not sustainable and will never show the real worth of teachers. If computers can be used to do the bulk of the monotonous stuff, teachers will have free time to impact students in a more productive and meaningful way.

    As we go forward, we cannot divorce technology from education, and teachers cannot be relegated to the background in favour of computers. We have to continue to find new and betters ways of making computers more efficient and teachers better educators.

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