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Topic: Technology replaces teachers?


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Subject:   Technology replaces teachers?
Author: Joel Duffin
Date: Sep 26 2003
The fear that technology will replace teachers has a long and storied history.
It merits a close look.

As has been repeatedly claimed, the use of the technology in the classroom is
changing the role of teachers (or at least has the potential to change the role
of teacher). My experience is that this scares teachers. More than one teacher
and even ElEd profs have told me that online scripted lessons have the potential
to turn the job of the professor into something that anyone could do and that
they most teachers wouldn't want to do. This make sense to me if you are
delivering a heavily scripted Saxon or similar direct instruction lesson, but I
don't think working with computer based instruction is the same. A common
reaction to technology is an instance of the perennial fear that "technology
will replace me."

I think a careful look at how technology could change the role of the teacher
would alleviate these fears and in fact excite teachers. I have teachers
responsd to Saxon and similar heavily scripted curriculums by saying that it
turns them into a robot. Some teachers react to to scripted online instruction
in similar ways.

Technology contrasts heavily with this. I believe that a major opportunity that
technology offers is to allow us to deliver mastery learning (teach students
where they are at and don't move on until they do) in a way that also encourages
understanding as opposed to rote learning of facts and procedures.

My perception is that direct instruction approaches to mastery learning try to
narrow the gaps between learners, but often results in rote learning (and higher
test scores by the way). Side note: I take it for granted that understanding is
much harder to measure than recall and for that reason we assess recall and
results based learning (NCLB) values instructional methods that produce it.

I believe technology offers an alternative to trying to homogenizing all
learners, it can help teachers manage the logistical chaos of trying to let
large numbers of learners go at their own pace. The role change I see of
teachers is from dispenser of information to diagnoser of student understanding
and customizer of instruction. To me this does not denigrate or demean the
teacher, rather it seems to be immensely freeing. It allows you to be a fellow
sojourner for understanding. I'd be interested to hear the opinions of lots of
teachers on this? I'm sure one reaction, is yeah, that should great but it is
pie in the sky.

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