Will technology replace teachers?

Many believe that in anywhere from 5-20 years our educational system will be completely overhauled due to technology. In the past few years there has already been a transformation from teachers being “content experts” to “content facilitator” because the information being taught in the classroom is now readily available everywhere.

We’re at the point where the Internet pretty much supplies everything we need. We don’t really need teachers in the same way anymore.”

Some believe that once this transformation is complete, there will be a few “super teachers” that are recorded and used in all classrooms throughout the country. This way the most interesting teachers are presenting the best possible lectures. This would cut down immensely on costs due to the fact that there would be fewer teachers. There would still be someone physically in the classroom, but they would strictly be a “Facilitator” and would not get paid as much as teachers currently do.

“The relatively recent emergence of the Internet, and the ever-increasing ease of access to web, has unmistakably usurped the teacher from the former role as dictator of subject content.”

This is a scary thought for teachers, but with the rising costs of colleges, it is a change students could benefit greatly from. The price of college cannot continue to increase at the rate that it has been over the last 10 years, and eventually some type of technology will be available that students think is just as good a traditional colleges. There are already many online colleges available, but it has yet to really catch on among the more elite schools. “Robo-professors” are a real possibility for classes / schools that teach very specific skills that can be used over and over again. The less creative a class is, the more likely it is for a robot to take over the teacher’s role.

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Many people are very against this transformation taking place, because they believe that a robot cannot possibly take the place of the life experience a teacher brings to a classroom. Students tend to learn at different speeds and in different ways, which teachers can adapt to but robots would be more static in the way that they teach. Teachers are also able to assess students in ways other than traditional tests, which robots would struggle with as well.

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I personally believe that technology in the classroom will continue to increase and transform into much more than what it is now, but I do not think it will ever take the place of teachers and professors. Technology works best when it is working alongside human beings. There are also a lot of privacy / security issues with the increase of technology in classrooms. If different websites are collecting data on students all the way from kindergarten through high school, there is a concern of who would have access to all of this data. If this data was made available to colleges or potential employers that would be a major breach of confidentiality for that student. I think this is a definite risk if we start using websites to collect and track student performance over the course of their life. This is the type of technology that will most likely move faster than the law, so it is important for school districts to start thinking about it in advance.

California has become the first state to restrict the type of information education technology industries can exploit:

Legislators in the state passed a law last month prohibiting educational sites, apps and cloud services used by schools from selling or disclosing personal information about students from kindergarten through high school; from using the children’s data to market to them; and from compiling dossiers on them.”

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Last year California Senator Steinberg also sponsored an “eraser button” for minors in CA to delete their digital footprint. This is a great step, and I believe other states should follow suit. When I was in middle school and high school, Myspace and Facebook were the only social media sites that were being used, but today with endless websites and apps I think it is very important for teenagers to be able to delete things they posted and have some sort of control over what data can be used against them once they are an adult.

11 comments

  1. kdphilippi18 · ·

    Really interesting post! You bring up a number a great points on how digital technology is transforming the education world. I would agree that there needs to be some sort of disruption due to the rising costs of education, but I still don’t think there is a great digital only solution yet. Teachers are able to interact with students in a meaningful way that cannot be replaced by technology. Some of my best teachers and professors facilitated thoughtful discussion that I do not think can be mass produced through technology. So, I think you are right that technology won’t completely take the place of teachers just yet, but teachers do need to incorporate technology in order to remain relevant.

  2. polmankevin · ·

    Great post! I think that there is a definite education bubble in this country. The internet provides an excess of information and our educational systems don’t take advantage of it well enough. I love the concept of teacher’s become content facilitators instead of content experts. Additionally, with the rising cost of higher education the bubble will undoubtedly burst at some point. Student’s will realize that they can generate just as much value from the internet as they can from some universities. In order to avoid this collapse educational organizations need to use technology to their benefit, rather than watch it destroy them.

  3. jagpalsingh03 · ·

    Great post! With so much information available on the internet, especially through universities’ resources, certain subjects seem ripe for a increased amount of technology takeover. I know that there have been countless times where I can rely on a 10-15 minute Khan Academy video to teach me material better than a professor who fails to get their lesson across in 75 minutes. Like you said, the price of college has increased exponentially the past decade and student debt can be a burden graduates carry for decades after receiving their degrees. So there definitely is a bubble and if colleges are serious about lowering their costs, then I definitely see digital as a feasible route; however, I don’t think replacing teachers is the best idea for younger students. The flexibility, compassion, and understanding that a human can provide is not only unparalleled but also necessary when working with children in their developmental years (Kindergarten, 1st grade, etc). As automation becomes more though ubiquitous, I hope teachers can remain as at least “facilitators” rather than be outright replaced.

  4. fernaneq4 · ·

    RT on the Khan Academy @jagpalsingh03! My cousin is a elementary school teacher and I could not do half of the things she does. The patience and care they have for their students is outstanding. However, I have certainly had my fair share of bad teachers. Perhaps technology can help in the vetting process of teachers? There is always a need for teachers but it is important that they are the right fit for the job. I think technology should assist teachers in facilitating as everyone else has mentioned. Nevertheless, school isn’t only about learning the material. School is learning how to learn and socialize. The material can be important but it is also the soft skills, learning how to study and so many other factors that contribute to the importance of schooling. Great post!

  5. Very interesting post that I had never really thought about before. The idea of having super teachers is something that intrigues me yet makes me very nervous at the same time. On one hand you may be giving the kids a superior learning environment. But, on the other hand you are robbing them of the daily interaction one might have with their teacher. However, I think teacher unions would never let this happen. But, the mere idea and thought of something like this hopefully helps people understand that real reform is needed for some of our educators in this country.

  6. Before I start, I just want to say this blog was extremely well done, extremely.

    Like some of the other students who have commented on this, I particularly don’t like the idea of this for K-12 students. I think it could be really effective for cutting costs in college though. At young ages, our teachers teach us more than just how to read and do math. They teach us things about morality and character that shape us into who we become later in our adult lives. I don’t think a computer-based curriculum will ever be able to replicate that.

    I think this also could potentially result in an even further broadening in the quality of education between the rich and the poor in this country. The smaller and wealthier private schools can have access to the technology and funds necessary for these “super professors” (who really may be a more effective way to learn than the standard teacher) than the inner city schools (that don’t have much of a budget to work with) during the transitional period. This could result in an entire generation of kids who don’t have access to a decent quality of education. Obviously this is cheaper in the long run but it may be difficult for some of these underfunded inner city schools sometimes holding as much as 2,000 students to have access to the funds necessary to adjust quickly.

    I personally don’t feel comfortable implementing this into our school systems until it’s regulated a bit more.

  7. wfbagleyiii · ·

    What a fascinating post! The role of technology in the classroom is certainly starting to change the way traditional learning has been conducted, but the concept of replacing professors or teachers with either AI or robots is simply unsettling.

    I think you nailed a few points. First, an element of learning between students is lost when there isn’t an adequate teaching presence available. It doesn’t seem sufficient to just have a facilitator. From personal experience, small class settings helped me greatly – although I also fully appreciate that I had the benefit of growing up in a private school setting with curious, engaged students.

    And data, privacy, etc. is such a major factor in this issue. But I would think that in the right circumstances it could benefit a student instead of posing a major threat.

    Really interesting blog and a lot to think about!

  8. Wow this is definitely a thought I have constantly had over the past few years. As I have grown up over the years in the education system I have noticed how teachers have grown in their use of technology. I started with them using just projectors to now the entire class syllabus is online. It is revolutionary. As I am ending my educational journey it will not effect me as much but will effect my children and the future generations. My brother is in medical school and even his stories on equipment and technology in the learning process in a hospital my dad cannot even fathom since he went through that process years before. Technology totally taking away from teachers? Not sure if I like that. It truly takes away the relationships and built social connections.

  9. Nice post. I agree with you that technology is best when paired with people. Unfortunately, so many professors I know aren’t willing to explore how technology can (and should) change their teaching. Actually my daughters 6th grade class does better with tech than many BC profs.

  10. rohansuwarna · ·

    Great job! Certainly this is a topic we as society need to come to grips with. As technology progresses, there is a sense of creative destruction in every industry. It would save local governments money by not employing people but rather having internet or tech programs teaching students. However, I believe learning from another person teaches us intangible life lessons, but we can learn many quantitive concepts easier from technology. This topic is only going to get more and more popular as our reliance on technology grows.

  11. michaelahoff · ·

    Education isn’t an industry that I’ve heard of getting disrupted as much as others, but there are some interesting factors at play here. As you mentioned, the cost of college makes for a ripe environment for a substitute. However, as Professor Kane said, kids probably know more about tech than the educators do.

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