The role of education technology is continuously expanding – from projectors to smart boards that enable increased interaction between teacher and students in the classroom. We are saying various aspects of education technology becoming an inherent part of the educational experience for students, teachers, parents, and management alike.
There are, of course, casualties. The primary one of these is the elimination of now obsolete job roles that have been taken over by a piece of technology. For instance, the work of an accounts department is largely automated by your school management software. This platform allows for the generation of fee structures that are tailored to individual students, raise dues, and generate invoices, taking into account various conditions that might be imposed on a student by student basis. Using a school management software reduces the amount of human effort to be put in, in addition to reducing the human rate of error.
But does this extend to teachers? With the advent of machine learning, natural language processing, and robots that are lifelike in a way never before seen, how far away are we from an automated teacher? Let us begin by taking a step back.
What is the role of a teacher?
It is not merely to teach, but to provide an education. There is an art to imparting knowledge to students that current technology is nowhere close to mastering. Educational technologies are currently aiding teachers in their work, not completely taking over them. They are tools, not replacements.
We can use school management software to collect data on student learning patterns, check for the efficacy of a new learning method, or just make the teaching experience more holistic and continual by using technology to facilitate engagement. These certainly enhance the teaching experience (and the learning experience) for students, however, they are not comprehensive enough to completely take over the task.
Teachers do more than just the one-way task of instructing a student. They identify social cues that would be impossible for a machine to parse, especially non-verbal or invisible interactions, that affect the learning experience. They help identify roadblocks for students that might be more personal or emotional in nature, that a machine cannot pick up on. They help to contextualise lessons in real time, which might not be possible for a piece of technology to do. Think back to your favourite teacher – did you enjoy her teaching because of her infallible library of knowledge or because of how she made the subject she taught come alive for you? The human connection is necessary for something as key as the act of learning.
Instead of asking whether technology has reached a point where it can replace human teachers, we must ask what aspects of the job it can take over to make their lives easier. Teachers world over are overburdened – they take on a caring role in a parent’s stead, they advocate for students who might be otherwise forgotten, and they shape a nation’s future early on. Instead of merely remembering them on a designated day (Teacher’s Day cards are appreciable but not game-changing) we should perhaps be focusing on building technology that aids them in these efforts. School management systems already perform these roles in different ways. They help teachers open up communication channels with students and parents. Teachers are able to stay better organised and on top of their game with reduced time and effort investment thanks to the superior organisational and processing capabilities of their school management software. Education technologies can help enhance teaching methods by making existing content more dynamic or helping teachers create fresher content that was previously out of their reach due to budgetary and technological constraints. Technology must be built to enable teachers, not replace them.