being a teacher, Student-centered, technology, tools

Teachers Do More Than Teach – Why Technology Can Never Replace Them

I hate that technology and education seem to be at odds with each other as presented in some media.  This “either or” mentality is, in my opinion, detrimental to the future of education.  We should embrace technology when it serves its purpose, but not treat as a replacement for teachers.  Computerized tests may be better at accurately assessing which reading skills my student needs to focus on, but a computerized test will not know why that student has not mastered that skill.  It can dictate a learning program fit to fix that gap, or to propel them forward, but hitting rewind and watching it over and over will not always guarantee that a student masters a concept.   So when we let videos be the only teaching tool for a child, or a computer program, then we stop figuring out why that child is not understanding. We lose that human connection that teachers provide.

We need the human connection for that, we need some form of a teacher to sit down and figure out what is happening in that child’s mind.  To figure out how we keep them engaged and interested.  How we keep them invested.  A computer program will always analyze but forget about the human aspect.  It will assess the problem from a deficit standpoint whereas lack of understanding may be as easy as lack of vocabulary or lack of sleep.

In high school, I failed math and I repeatedly asked my teacher for help to explain the concepts to me.  She would explain it the same way she had explained it before and I finally stopped asking, it simply didn’t make sense to me no matter how many times she repeated it.  Mind you this was before YouTube and vast internet communities, before Google, and Twitter.  The only other place I could turn was the library.  And yet we let tools that do nothing but repeat take so much value away from the job that we do every day as teacher.  We have let the media portray it as the saviour of education.

A frightening future to me would be one where teachers are nonexistent or serve a secondary role to the almighty computer.  Where students are greeted by machines from their own private spaces and curriculum is served through a computer program.  Lunch is served by themselves and extracurricular activities are gone by the wayside.  Drastic sure, but scary nonetheless.  Teachers don’t just teach the curriculum; they process it, they analyze it knowing their students’ skills.  They invest their time in it so that students will want to invest their own.  They make it meaningful, relevant, and they make it fun.  Technology can help with that, but it shouldn’t replace.  Teachers do more than just teach; they shape, they mold, they model behavior, and they connect.  Often that connection is worth more than any curriculum.  Worth more than any computer program.

So the path of the future is our hands; we can show the way of how to use technology correctly as a tool to help propel us forward as practitioners or we can hide from it and lament its coming.  Technology was never meant to replace teachers, but it slowly is, it is up to us whether we let it.

5 thoughts on “Teachers Do More Than Teach – Why Technology Can Never Replace Them”

  1. On my daughter Janie's last day of kindergarten, I snapped a photo of her getting a hug from her teacher. I love the photo because I can see in the teacher's eyes how much love she has for Janie. I am an ed tech evangelist and have seen first-hand the power of technology to engage kids in learning. But there is NOTHING more important that a teacher who genuinely cares about all of her students.

  2. It's easy to be fooled by Khan artists, tricking us into thinking that the human element isn't important. It's easy to slip into "school didn't work for me" must mean "school won't work for anyone." In both cases, it's an obsession with binary thinking. What makes us human is our paradox, our frailty, our nuance, our creative impulses that are completely unprogrammed. Kids need that.

  3. Both of you said it better than I can. We need an element of both, not one epic way. We seem to forget about flexibility in school and would rather throw ourselves at the latest and greatest idea, thus losing our own humanity as teachers.

  4. @John T Spencer:Your "Khan artists" comment, while clever, is not really accurate in terms of what Mr. Khan is doing. He's not trying to replace the teacher – he's trying to give them tools to help them teach more effectively.I don't think anyone who argues that technology should (or will) replace teachers fully understand what a teacher actually does.

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