Is Your Teacher a Robot?

Imagine one day you come to school and the teachers are gone. Instead of teachers and smart boards, there are only computers. You are told that instead of teachers teaching individual classes, a computer system is the new “teacher.” You are told it is customized to your own learning abilities and learning style. It also helps you accomplish assignments at your own pace.

Every day, students wake up in the morning and go to school interacting with many different teachers and peers. Each class has a specific teacher. Every student typically meets a teacher that becomes their favorite. That teacher is always there for you, helping you through difficult projects, and always there to talk to. 

All of the teachers could disappear in a blink of an eye. The only teacher interaction could be at the end of the week for ten minutes. The teacher would talk to each student and discuss their progress  over the week. This is the exact situation that occurred in Silicon Valley, Kansas across a few schools. This caused a major uproar among many students. Students were frustrated that now instead of having human interactions, computers would teach them. Students were coming home exhausted, brain dead and overall unhappy. They had been staring at screens for hours and hours all day with hardly any break.

Not only is this bad for a child’s mental well being, but also for their health. Children typically go home and look at technology. If a child is already looking at technology prior to this, students will have had a full day worth of technology. Sleep is a critical need in children’s learning process and if they are deprived, then they can not possibly thrive in school and other extracurricular activities. It is always nice to have some form of technology incorporated into your school work, yet eliminating teachers and other practical methods is not the way to introduce this.

There are other alternatives for computer-based work besides completely eliminating teachers. Programs such as Duolingo and IXL teach at a child’s own pace, while incorporating daily teacher and student interactions. By working and studying on these programs rather than completely eliminating teachers, there is a fine balance.

I asked students their opinion on eliminating teachers from their academic studies. One seventh-grader said, “Robots are inevitable. I think it is a nice opportunity, but it should not completely erase teachers. They should be used in combination [with live teachers], a good thing if used in moderation.” Another sixth grader said in response to the program: “This is extremely stupid because right now when there are already teachers teaching with low salaries and if you eliminate their job, they will be left jobless. They have families they need to provide for. I would be very upset if this ever came to GFS because I love all my teachers. I think there are some benefits; everyone has different paces, so if you get taught at your own pace that is nice. At the same time though, you need social interactions.”

Another student replied, “The program definitely seems interesting, and I would love to learn about this more. Nowadays, computers and technology are really taking over. Many jobs that would be handled by humans are being taken over by robots and other elaborate machinery. Although the idea is intriguing, the way GFS students are taught would never prepare them for this. Students are very dependent on their teachers. If this idea was introduced, students would become lost and confused. There is no way they could thrive as much as they are doing now.”

Although the idea of having computers teaching you is interesting, there are many counter arguments and disadvantages to this system. The economic, health and overall wellness of children outweighs this program.

Sources:

New York Times Learning Network, “Would You Want to Learn With a Personalized, Online Learning Program Instead of a Teacher”, Natalie Proulx, April 23, 2019 https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/23/learning/would-you-want-to-learn-with-a-personalized-online-learning-program-instead-of-a-teacher.html

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