Between the pandemic, the turbulent economy, and shortage of teachers, 2022 is rapidly showing us that the future of education could very well be teacher-less. Find out why here!
by Bash Sarmiento | Bash Sarmiento is a writer and an educator from Manila. He writes laconic pieces in the education, lifestyle and health realms. His academic background and extensive experience in teaching, textbook evaluation, business management and traveling are translated in his works. Follow him @bashsarmiento.
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Artificial Intelligence or A.I. as we’ve come to know it, is rapidly expanding into all industry areas. You can see A.I. in robotics when you visit a restaurant with with a robot waiter, in hotels at guest check-in, machines parking cars, A.I. robots cooking meals in homes, in taxis, and so much more.
Naturally, the next big question for A.I that parents are wondering about is whether A.I. will cause their children’s future to become teacher-less. And it’s a good question for a reason.
Since the dawn of man, a teacher has facilitated instruction. However, as technology grows even more advanced, we’re reaching a technological singularity where teachers are becoming obsolete. Plus, the number of people wanting to become teachers is steadily declining, so it’s safe to wonder if one day, in the near future, artificial intelligence will replace educators.
Understanding the future of education and how technology contributes to it can help us figure out if the future of education is teacher-less. Let’s dive deeper to find out more!
The Pandemic Changed How We Perceive Education Standards
When the coronavirus pandemic began, school districts were forced to shut down. After scrambling for a viable solution to return safely, technology stepped in and saved us all. The birth of virtual learning became a staple in homes across the globe. But once the pandemic began winding down, schools and parents begged government officials to allow a return to previous normalcy. Because of all of this, there has been a growing shift in how people think about education.
Many school districts and universities have moved most of their classes online with platforms like Zoom, Google Classroom, and Moodle. These digital platforms are similar to traditional classroom structures, except now you’re watching your professors over a webcam system.
While that doesn’t sound very fun or practical for parents, it is now commonplace for students of all ages to use these platforms in combination with in-person learning. And while parents weren’t too keen to keep their children home any longer than necessary, this blip in time allowed children of all ages to become more technically savvy than ever before. You can see this in children as young as Kindergarten, as they are also using online platforms in their classes for hybrid learning.
While many of these platforms still utilize teachers to handle a class, it doesn’t mean that they are still primarily necessary. All the information can be frontloaded on these platforms as learning videos and modules. Teachers are relegated to moderators as a way to humanize the learning process. Even questions from children can be asked and answered using an A.I. enhanced chat bot.
Artificial Intelligence And Teaching
Using artificial intelligence for commonly-used systems has always lagged behind other technologies. When text-to-speech came on the scene, voices were robotic and sounded nothing like humans. Now that computers have better hardware, text-to-speech has improved significantly. While this is amazing for accessibility, it could only reach so far.
But as we’ve seen in the last decade, companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Google have used that tech to make voice assistants. Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant are three of the leading ones, and their value is mainly in simple support tasks. Think recipes, weather alerts, and web searches.
These speakers were tied to smartphones and designated as hands-free assistants that could be used for searches. Now, they’re getting smarter and have fewer restrictions. We’ve already seen this with Google Duplex, where an AI speaker was able to call a hair salon and schedule an appointment for a haircut. It blew people’s minds and was the start of something greater.
The advancement in machine learning is growing rapidly. With that, it stands to reason that, with enough time, you could program a bot to teach as well or even better than a human teacher. With the birth of this generation’s first self-aware Artificial Intelligence, it is safe to say that in the near future, AI could potentially be brought into the classrooms as a way to alleviate budget constraints.
AI can be more productive than humans too. They don’t have any biological needs, so they can consistently process information, which can help them build a higher level of expertise than people over time.
How Money Can Play A Role In This Decision
School districts receive state funding to finance their districts goals. Whether it’s in the form of grants, tax breaks, or borrowing, schools depend on that money. This money pays for so many aspects of education that most parents don’t realize.
This funding pays for teacher’s salaries, administrators, secretaries, janitors, lunch aides, para professionals, sending children of special needs to other schools, buses, school functions, repairs, expansions, new curriculum, teacher trainings, administrative trainings, and so much more. Obviously, a school district’s budget must be plentiful, and when budget cuts occur, it impacts every aspect of a child’s education.
Perhaps, A.I. is the answer to budget restrictions and constraints. If A.I. can teach a class, answer phones, do the accounting, and more, then the budget no longer needs to focus on hiring humans. It can focus on advancing a child’s education. So, this type of technology has its benefits and you can believe that lawmakers are keeping an eye on its possibilities.
Robotic Teachers Can Be The Future
All learners could benefit from a more gamified experience. That’s where robotics comes in.
The current educational machines are expensive, but prices are still coming down. They only require a tablet with an app or a touchscreen interface, a laser projector or a camera, and a few lines of code to make it seem like a talking robot.
So instead of a child sitting at a desk while a robot looks over their shoulder, they’ll interact more easily with machines that are more accessible. This can create a positive learning environment as children of all ages learn through hands-on experiences, and won’t be as scared off by seeing an empty desk.
So, what does this mean for our future? While we still have to deal with the complications of Covid-19, this has shown us that technology is quickly evolving and can make a massive impact on our lives.
Are Real, Human Teachers Still Vital?
While using robots and artificial intelligence to teach children might look cool, it does have its shortfalls. The biggest one is that A.I. and robots do not have the capability to express emotion, at this time.
In other words, a child in need of comfort won’t be able to receive it in a classroom run by A.I. or robots. Nor will they be able to be consoled in case something goes wrong. Think of A.I. and robots as being a “Yes, Sir or No, Sir” type personality with no room in between. That means that there will be no negotiation, no extra credit, and no mercy for late work.
If you want that personal connection for your child, you’ll have to let your local lawmakers know just how vital human teachers are. The world is vastly changing in the wake of the pandemic, and it’s headed towards a more technologically inclusive environment than ever before.
There’s no shortage of things to worry about regarding the uncertain fate of the future of our children’s education. With that said, it is better to see how technology can better enhance our children’s education while taking notes on what aspects of their education need further research and development.
Who knows, maybe one day, you’ll welcome A.I and robots into the classroom and wonder how children ever survived the “old” way of being taught.