Can Technology Replace Teachers?

For starters, this is the wrong question to ask (we might consider asking instead, ‘How can technology support teachers?) but I see it come up more and more as technology both improves and disappoints in fulfilling its considerable promise–potential that ten years ago now seems naive in hindsight.

A few years ago, I approached this topic in Will Robots Replace Teachers? after doing an interview on the topic. In the post, I focused on the effects a ‘teaching robot’ might have on a classroom (an underlying assumption here being that a robot would be shoehorned into a traditional ‘classroom’ in a traditional ‘school).

“If robots replaced teachers…

…teachers can actually have time to plan.

…the robots can support and supplement teaching and assessment of learning while teachers can focus on building relationships with students, their families, and the communities they live in, contribute to, and depend on.

…teachers can work part-time to promote the humanities, civic participation, and other programs that had been de-funded back in the twenty-teens as financial support shifted towards ‘more practical curriculum’ and a form of mastery-based and competency-based learning.

…teachers can focus on understanding, wisdom, and meaning-making instead of the procedural elements of pedagogy.”

You get the idea. The research suggests that technology can improve learning in the classroom.

What Is The Effect Of Technology On Learning In The Classroom?

In What Technology Can And Can’t Replace In The Classroom, I said that among the benefits of technology could be improved student access to diverse content–and thus improved student curiosity.

“Theoretically, by connecting students to a broader set–and potentially higher quality–of learning content and collaboration, curiosity could be increased. Obviously, you could argue that technology, used poorly, could have the opposite effect.”

Ultimately, a strong teacher will leverage any tool—technology—to supplement their teaching. Effective use of technology can, for example, reduce teacher workload and improve student performance.

There are many cases where technology can replace traditional teachers—in asynchronous learning environments, for example. Many students simply don’t have access to formal teaching and need technology. But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Teachers are overworked and have an impossible job: to meet the needs of every student, every day, in every way. To ‘leave no child behind.’ This is an absurd goal that can only be true if we’re being dishonest about what students truly need.

And among other strategies, effective use of technology has the potential to support teachers as much as it does students.