We’ve all heard it from the news: a significant proportion of jobs will be automated, rendering them obsolete and leaving many people unemployed. But will teaching as a profession be at stake? As technology swiftly makes its way into classrooms all over the world, one can’t help but wonder if teachers will soon be replaced by intelligent computers and e-learning programmes. Let’s not forget that most of the information we need can also be easily found by scouring search engine results.
So, do we really need teachers when we can do the research and learning ourselves? As it stands, teaching isn’t as simple as we make it out to be.
We cannot solely rely on artificial intelligence (also known as A.I.) to get the job done. Adaptive learning technology is still in its infancy despite being an undeniably useful facilitation of knowledge to students. Furthermore, there are still limitations to what A.I. can or cannot do when it comes to providing every student with the best education they deserve.
A.I. cannot encourage students to take responsibility for learning
There is some truth in the old adage “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”. With that said, you can use the most advanced of educational tools like A.I. to help students in their studies, but you cannot force them if they don’t want to use it. When that happens, it is important – and necessary – for someone to step in and take control of the situation.
This is especially true for disengaged students who are reluctant in following instructions, defiant in completing tasks, and indifferent to getting scolded for disrupting the class. Just getting these students to sit down and interact with A.I. is an uphill battle, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to engage and pique their interest in other ways.
For starters, a teacher can enforce discipline by telling his or her students to complete their assessments on the computer. This is different from A.I. which has no means of commanding the attention of students like teachers can. At this stage, human educators still have the upper hand when it comes to convincing students to take responsibility for their education.
A.I. cannot enforce learning through positive social interaction
Proponents of A.I. often overlook the need for meaningful communication among learners in the classroom. A significant component of education is the freedom for students to express their thoughts and exchange ideas with their fellow classmates. Solitary activities alone do not make a well-rounded student.
Imagine this: a student spends most of his time facing inanimate objects such as computers and tablets. There may not much time spent listening and talking to his peers. As the opportunities for social interaction slowly declines, the student may eventually get so used to working alone that he or she finds difficulty collaborating or communicating with others. Surely we don’t want to cultivate a generation that struggles to comfortably interact with others on a daily basis?
But that’s not to say that we shouldn’t use A.I. altogether. Educators are still required to take on the role of a facilitator and use technology to help them focus on other more important aspects of teaching. When it comes to individual work like self-revision of previously-taught concepts, A.I. can be a very useful tool to repeatedly test the fundamentals. Teachers will then have more time to break the monotony and make lessons more dynamic with fun and interactive hands-on activities.
A.I. cannot connect with students emotionally and inspire a love of learning
There’s no denying how A.I. adds value to teachers. It collates data about pupils’ proficiency levels, marks homework, provides instantaneous feedback, and even identifies those at risk of failing future examinations based on their performance. But it falls short of having empathy and picking up on nuances of emotions before acting accordingly.
Consider the children in class who are constantly chatting about anything other than the curriculum. Are they talking because they have understood and completed their work? Or are they confused and have simply given up on learning? Unlike A.I., teachers are able to study such scenarios, pick up on contextual cues and emotional states, and respond according to each individual. Teachers can also spend more time on specific students who need more guidance while fostering stronger bonds to inspire them to take charge of their learning.
The best teachers are looking for better ways to teach and impart knowledge to their students. These teachers are also the ones embracing ever-changing technological tools such as A.I. to reduce administrative work and refocus their attention on what matters most – the students themselves. Rather than viewing technology as a threat, educators should view these tools as a way to shape classrooms for the better.