While witnessing a passionate classroom discussion about the role of technology in the everyday life a student asked me, “Mr. Yates, do you think teachers will be replaced by machines?” Teachers vs. technology. Hmm.
I looked up at the student as the rest of the class waited for my answer with bated breath and said, “Do you really think a machine could replace me?” But after the laughter receded and my students went home the topic stuck with me. Could I be replaced by automated videos or machines disseminating content to students with perfect precision?
A July 2017 Bloomberg article gave me the answer I needed. According to the article, teachers are among American professional jobs who are least likely to be replaced by automation. Whew! What a relief.
As I thought about the short journey toward the realization that my job is safe from the machine apocalypse I came to an important conclusion: We must stop the teachers vs. technology debate! Here’s why:
1. Teachers really are irreplaceable.
Everything we know about student outcomes tells us that the most important school-level factor is the teacher! More than performance, one good teacher can change the life of a student. Teachers, you are irreplaceable. No piece of technology can do the complete work of a teacher. Technology won’t stay late to support a student’s football game, or go home and grade for two hours only to wake up early to meet students for tutorials. It’s worth saying again: teachers, you are irreplaceable.
#2: Technology is not an enemy of instruction.
There is so much tech making its way into the modern-day classroom, and I have news for you. Technology is your friend, not your enemy! Say it with me, technology is my friend, not my enemy. One more time! Okay, I’m kidding. I won’t make you do that again.
Unfortunately, there is an ever-increasing set of administrative and instructional tasks that cause many teachers to stay late and arrive early. Thankfully, technology can handle some of these tasks for us, like taking attendance, grading and creating assessments, communications, and tracking student progress. Embracing these types of technologies will free up time for teachers to actually teach and mentor students.
3. When we embrace technology, students win.
Our students live in a digital world. That’s where we need to live, too.
I recently got a school iPad that has replaced my need for a smartboard. It lets me project power points and draw all over them. I’ve noticed that, since I have had this iPad, my students are much more likely to “come to the board” and write, because it comes to them. It’s a small change, but this little tech innovation is changing my instruction and my students.
#4: Students are the great equalizer.
Just like everything in the world of education, we always win when we put students first. If a parent meeting grows tough, put the student’s interest at the forefront of the conversation and it normally goes well. When designing education policy, consider the students in the scenario and it goes well. This discourse is not different. So, are teachers better than technology? The answer is students deserve a great education. Can technology replace teachers? The answer is that students deserve a fantastic education.
The teachers vs. technology debate has got to go. Technology really can help teachers in our pursuit to change the world, one student at a time. If you choose to embrace tech in the classroom, great. If not, that is okay too. The bottom line is that every student deserves and amazing education. Period.