In today’s high-tech classrooms, teachers have to be equal parts educator and I.T. specialist. They not only have to know their content, but also how to integrate, operate, and troubleshoot advanced equipment and computer programs. Teachers are constantly adapting to stay current, but will technology eventually take over the entire classroom?
There are many reasons why schools would opt for technology over teachers. First and foremost, buying and implementing technology is more cost-effective than hiring classroom teachers. Computer programs and Internet services do not require healthcare, retirement benefits, professional development, or pay raises.
Furthermore, technology can save educational institutions from legal headaches such as teacher unions and lawsuits. Even though schools perform extensive background checks, they still face the stigma and media attention brought on by teachers who commit crimes and engage in inappropriate behavior. By getting rid of teachers, schools could spend more time and money on education and less on litigation.
Technology is also tempting because it can help cut down on the expense of traditional brick-and-mortar buildings. By offering online learning experiences, schools can educate students off campus—thus saving money on facilities and maintenance. Additionally, online coursework can provide greater curriculum choices to students in rural or remote areas.
Another incentive for schools to use technology is the ability to offer students a flexible education experience. Online universities already allow students to “attend” courses at night and on the weekends. It’s hard to find teachers that will do the same.
Technology is a great way to offer educational services to students, but it still has its limitations. No matter how “smart” a product or computer program is, it can’t compare to the knowledge and life experience that a teacher brings into the classroom. A teacher can use this background to help the student make real-world connections and see a subject from a different perspective.
Educational technology usually takes a one-size-fits-all approach to learning that doesn’t account for learning differences or students with special needs. By contrast, a teacher can present material in a variety of ways and modify curriculum to meet the needs of each student.
When using technology, students’ knowledge is usually evaluated through standardized tests. However, classroom teachers use both formal (tests, quizzes, essays, etc.) and informal (observation, discussions, student questions, etc.) assessments to determine if a student has mastered a concept.
Finally, there are usually no alternatives when electronic products break down or Internet connections are lost, and they can be expensive to fix and replace. Technology only educates students if they can use it, but a teacher can adapt a lesson and continue teaching even if her projector is broken or the Internet is down.
While the role of technology in education is steadily increasing, it is more likely that it will continue to be used as a supplement to teaching rather than an alternative to teachers. In fact, currently available online universities and virtual academies still employ educators to create lessons, mediate discussions, and evaluate student progress. These interactions between students and teachers are an important part of the learning process and help students become productive members of society. Even the best learning products and services can’t replace the invaluable life lessons taught by a dedicated teacher.
Stephanie Marbukh is a blogger and former teacher who writes about a variety of topics including education news, office solutions, and car insurance.