- In a world where news anchors are being replaced by robots, teachers can feel that their jobs are safe because students will need teachers to foster needed higher-order thinking skills, which only human teachers can provide, Andre Perry, a Brookings Institution fellow, asserts in a column for the Hechinger Report.
- However, public education is adapting to a changing world and technology is already affecting education in the form of MOOCs and computer programs that allow education to be personalized for students in ways not possible with a single teacher in a crowded classroom. But failed experiments, such as the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow in Ohio, illustrate the dangers of relying too heavily on electronic education.
- For teachers to stay relevant in a changing society, they must be able to prepare students for a world that does employ robots by giving them skills such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration, problem-solving and entrepreneurialism. In a world where information is available at our fingertips, Perry said, “Learning in practice is no longer about extracting knowledge; it is about constructing it — and that’s what separates humans from machines.”
As the age of AI approaches, the question of whether robots can replace teachers looms larger. Anthony Seldon, vice chancellor of the University of Buckingham, predicts that robots will replace teachers by 2027, less than a decade away. Some say that robots can never replace teachers because teachers inspire us. But, in another article, Seldon, says “inspirational robots” are possible and can be adapted to each student’s individual learning style.
The idea of robot teachers may sound appealing on some levels because teachers are expensive and in increasingly short supply. Robots do not require pay, health care or pensions, are fairly reliable and do not have preconceived notions about race or gender that can impact the delivery of knowledge and expectations.
However, education is not just about the acquisition of knowledge, it is about relationships and the shaping young minds. A true teacher does not just impart facts; he or she creates a thirst for knowledge and teaches students how to quench that thirst. Teachers also inspire students to think for themselves and to innovate new solutions, something that AI cannot do.
The experiment with the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow illustrates some of these challenges. The school failed because many of the “students” weren’t actually participating in the process of education. Students are human beings who need to be motivated and guided. They have questions that need to be answered by humans. They also need warmth, encouragement and personal attention. They need to learn social skills only humans can teach.
Robots may be able to play a role in the future of education as aides in the classroom, despite the reluctance of many teachers to use them. They may be able to help personalized curriculum and deal with some of the more mundane tasks of monitoring progress or drilling students on facts. Teachers may need to adapt to dealing with AI in the future, but they will likely never be replaced by them.