Could, Should or When will Artificially Intelligent replace teachers?


This month we welcome a guest post by Armand Doucet

 

Could AI robots replace teachers?  Should AI robots replace teachers? Thanks to advances in robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), virtual reality and sensor technology, they probably could.  But, should they?

Well, that depends upon your goal. If your goal is to save money (ok, massive amounts of money), operate schools all year round, keep non-unionized ‘staff’ on campus 24 hours a day to deliver the curriculum or meet with parents, then your answer is Yes! But if your goal is to have master teachers utilizing pedagogy based on assessment of their students, seizing ‘teachable moments’ that have nothing to do with the curriculum and everything to do with humanity, then your answer must be Hell, no!

Personally, I think we need to be cautious and ETHICAL when experimenting with the digital age. I refer you to AI Twitter account that had to be shut down within 24 hours because it became offensive and tweeted inflammatory and hate-filled messages. In all fairness, that incident said more about the twitter trolls and society in general than it did about AI.

Other scary thoughts for a classroom:

-Stepford Wives type robot – benevolent, obedient and perfectly calculated delivering curriculum content with a smile, standardization. Any lifelong professional educator will tell you that teaching is (INSERT SARCASM HERE) monotonous, humorless and repetitive profession. I’m sure students are going to be submissive, self-motivated and excited to perform their daily task.

– Robocop robot – the judge, jury and executioner programmed with data from prejudices of a bygone era in the hallways

– Megatron robot – programmed to a dictators every whim, pushing the world further apart through racist and sexist populist agenda subjugating (and I dare say brain washing) of millions

– IRobot – The scariest of them all, the robot that deviates from his programming because we really don’t understand what happens with the “black box” and its self-learning.

You need to understand, I am not a Luddite. However, very large ethical questions needs to be debated and answered throughout the process of integration to protect our students. It needs to be fast, but done well. The digital age tools used in our classroom should be created hand in hand with our teachers and other developmental experts such as cognitive psychologist, social workers etc. and the students data protected like Fort Knox.

I firmly believe that technology has a supporting role in education. I myself use it in multiple ways including assessment, attendance, recording students’ self-reflections, and helping me personalize the curriculum for each of my students. If you look closely at the research, you will see that teacher-directed instruction combined with inquiry-based instruction at the appropriate time, is what is best for children. So teaching is both an art and a science. It requires solid pedagogical knowledge, good judgement and empathy.

So where does the digital age fit in the classroom? It’s already here!  AI can write personalized text books, it can learn a curriculum, and then adapt the presentation to best fit each student. It can be a translator for immigrant students. Sensory technology can track attendance in schools. Avatars can showcase a world 2000km away through virtual reality.

Where could it fit in the classroom?  I can foresee R2D2 taking care of formative assessment and handing the data to the teacher. C-3PO could do instant translations for your diversified classroom when they do collaboration, instantly helping with inclusion. Not a Star Wars fan, Ironman utilization of holograms to showcase the inner workings of organ or his use of his personal assistant to make multiple avatars function personalizing some curriculum to elementary students via their passions.

Where should it fit in the classroom? That question is best left to the voter and taxpayer, but I know where it shouldn’t fit: at the front of the room taking the place of a human being.

I am not an expert in AI or robotics. But, I am a teacher. I believe there is a place in our classrooms for the digital age that greatly benefit both teacher and student.  You and I must work together to create platforms and support systems that educate, protect and provide the humanistic elements to our students.

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