The Future of Teachers: AI or Human?

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This article was originally posted in EdWeek

Businesses are pouring billions of dollars into AI (Artificial Intelligence), and “machine learning” is expected to bring about tremendous changes to the workforce and society. AI will also likely result in drastic changes to the nature of the student-teacher relationship. The fundamental issue for schools is whether machines will replace teachers or whether machines will serve as subordinates.

For years, I’ve said that teachers will not be replaced by technology. Parents and teachers strongly agree that the student-teacher relationship is a fundamental aspect of a child’s education and personal development. Hence, it’s hard to imagine parents being enthusiastic about their children being taught by robots.

But I wonder if parents will have the same attitude in 25 years. There’s growing evidence that we are becoming accustomed to interacting with nonhumans. We’re already speaking and listening to computers regularly to conduct various transactions. Moreover, machines are becoming increasingly lifelike. Have you seen the video interview of the life-like Sophia?

It’s not inconceivable that in the future we will become comfortable with machines leading classroom learning.

Many parents believe that the student-teacher relationship is less important as a student ages. The socialization goals of a nurturing elementary classroom may not be as important as the academic goals in a secondary classroom. In other words, it might be more important to both parents and students to get a great score on a standardized test than to further intangible skills. Thus, it’s not unthinkable to envision parents and students willing to accept nonhuman teachers if it’s a surer path to academic “achievement.” A scary thought, indeed, but one we have to consider.