What's driving this?
The belief that technology can automate education and replace teachers is pervasive — and certainly not new. The idea of introducing ‘teaching machines’ to eliminate the grossly inefficient and clumsy procedures of conventional education1 was written about as early as the 1930s, the intention being to free teachers from routine tasks and to be ‘real teachers’ instead of ‘clerical workers’.
This relentless pursuit of efficiency in our education system is frequently highlighted when arguing the case for introducing more educational technology products into schools and classrooms — just look at the advertising collateral from many of the hardware and software products being sold into schools.
This perspective is also reflected in discussions among teacher unions who argue for acknowledgement of time being taken for ‘administrative’ tasks when negotiating their terms and conditions for employment.
Then there are those who regard teaching as purely the transmission of knowledge who argue we’re at the point where the internet pretty much supplies everything we need — and that we don’t really need teachers in the same way anymore.
Key arguments for pursuing the use of robots and AI in education include:
- the automation of basic activities in education, such as marking and assigning grades or standards
- the adaptability of software to meet learner needs
- providing the ability to point out places where courses need to improve based on learner feedback and performance
- providing extra support for learners when and where needed, including affective responses
- the provision of timely and targeted feedback
- the ability to alter ways students find and interact with information based on their preferences and learning style
catering for (and even encouraging) learning from mistakes — through trial and error.
How might we respond?
While the talk of automating any human activity, including teaching, frequently causes concern about what will be lost, the more appropriate response is to consider what new opportunities for teaching and learning might be achieved if we had better “thinking machines” to assist us? Instead of seeing work as a zero-sum game with machines taking an ever-greater share, we might see growing possibilities for participation in this process. We could reframe the threat of automation as an opportunity for augmentation.
Some questions to act as a stimulus with your colleagues include:
- What are the tasks we currently do in our jobs that we’d consider repetitive and routine?
- How might these be automated?
- Are there examples of where this has already happened that we can think of? If so, what new opportunities have emerged in terms of how we use our time and talents?
- What are we teaching in our curriculum that is preparing our learners to think about a world where many of the jobs their parents do currently may no longer exist due to automation?
- What new skills are going to be required, and how are we intentionally developing these?
- Pressey, S. (1933). Psychology and the new education. Harper & Brothers.
Historian Yuval Noah Harari offers a bracing prediction: just as mass industrialisation created the working class, the AI revolution will create a new unworking class.
Robots and intelligent machines threaten to replace workers in industries from finance to retail to haulage, with BOE Chief Economist Andrew Haldane estimating in 2015 that 15 million British jobs and 80 million in the U.S. could be lost to automation.
As automation technologies such as machine learning and robotics play an increasingly great role in everyday life, their potential effect on the workplace has become a major focus of research and public concern. The discussion tends toward a Manichean guessing game: which jobs will or won’t be replaced by machines.
This article examines how technology is changing the workplace.
In this article, Christoforos Pappas describes the characteristics and benefits of eLearning automation.
Michael Hansen examines how technology may be used in various aspects of teaching in the future, and how this will impact the role of the teacher.
This article, published in the Harvard Business Review, explores augmentation, automation, and how people can position themselves to work effectively alongside technologies which are taking over more and more of the tasks in their working roles.
This article discusses Knewton, a new computerised-learning program that features immediate feedback and adaptation to students' learning curves.
This article explores Neuralink, a company which aims to make implants for the human brain that can wirelessly interface with a computer.
This article explores neural lace, an ultra-thin mesh that can be implanted in the skull, forming a collection of electrodes capable of monitoring brain function. It creates an interface between the brain and the machine.
CORE professional learning solutions: Curriculum
Designing a curriculum that is adaptive to local contexts and learners’ strengths and needs is complex. We work with you, aligning your curriculum and student learning experiences with your vision for student success.
CORE professional learning solutions: Assessment
The foundation for learner agency is teaching and learning, which is grounded in assessment for learning practices. We help you strengthen assessment for learning practices, so learners are active in all learning decisions.
This paper explores the impact of robots, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. In particular, it studies the impact of these emerging technologies on the workforce and the provision of health benefits, pensions, and social insurance.