We hear it repeatedly: Technology has automated another job, leaving more workers unemployed. Amazon alone has impacted the retail industry significantly enough to force companies into closing stores. So what about education? Are teachers’ jobs jeopardized by those little machines that can access so much information? After all, we live in an age where online education is becoming more prevalent than ever and Siri, Alexa, and Google apparently know as much as any professor. Free online classes (known as MOOCs) and Khan Academy are just a few ways students can learn without a teacher. And let’s face it, today’s students would much rather learn from these sources than from the “sage on the stage.”
Ultimately technology’s impact on teachers boils down to one question: What is your primary role as a teacher? If you responded that it is to provide information to, or impart knowledge on your students, you can be headed for the unemployment line, courtesy of technology’s hostile takeover. We humans cannot compete with the vast amounts of information available to students at their fingertips.
At last there is some good news. Teachers can save themselves from those job-eating machines. According to Michael Trucano, the World Bank’s senior education & technology policy specialist and global lead for innovation in education, “Introducing new technologies will, however, replace some of the things that teachers do — and require that teachers take on new, often times more sophisticated, duties and responsibilities.” In other words, what is required for many teachers is a shift in mindset about teaching. The teacher is no longer the font of all knowledge. Thus, their instructional practices must reflect that shift. Whole class lecture and note-taking has lost its effect on learning. Teachers must choose to educate in ways that technology cannot.
- Personal Interaction – Computers are great at providing data from a standardized test, but they can never measure the heart of a student, nor their feelings. The personal connection between teacher and student is invaluable. Only a teacher can truly understand a student’s full needs.
- Collaboration – While it is possible to collaborate virtually, students still need to work together in a live environment. Collaboration with other human beings is a major concern for businesses. These skills can only be addressed in a live setting.
- Communication – Of course digital communication (email, social media, text, etc.) is important. Just as important is the ability to communicate through writing and speech. These areas simply cannot be assessed effectively by technology.
- Creativity/Critical Thinking/Problem Solving – Students need to develop these skills to be successful in their careers. Again, the ability of technology to provide the coaching necessary to develop these skills is quite limited.
These are just a few areas in which human teachers far surpass data-filled machines. There is no doubt that technology provides an essential benefit to education and there is much research that bears this out. No matter how advanced artificial intelligence becomes, there will never be a substitute for the God-given gifts of humans to other humans. So rest assured that your job is secure if your mindset is right.
For more information, check out Michael Trucano’s blog post at