I recently sent a link to Apple’s iPad2 education announcement to our faculty. There were comments back and forth until somebody said he heard on TV that this would eventually eliminate teaching positions. Nobody wanted to discuss it after that. It’s a sobering thought, being replaced by a machine. It’s a fear that’s existed since the industrial revolution began. Could that really happen?
Textbooks already identify, gather, and organize content being taught. In many districts lesson plans come from the central office. Teachers use packaged units with media and labs to support and supplement learning. Most schools have a machine in the teacher workroom to grade those bubble-the-answer cards. None of this seems to have eliminated teaching positions. Maybe instead of eliminating teaching positions having students use devices like the iPad2 to gain certain kinds of knowledge will result in same number of teachers being able to offer students deeper, more inspiring learning experiences.
Distance learning already offers any school, no matter how small, the opportunity to offer interested students very specific coursework. I expect this trend to continue and for more uniform vetting processes to be developed for formal online learning experiences. Perhaps fewer teachers will be in the classroom but more teachers will be employed to support distance learning. Predictions are that textbooks on the iPad2 can provide dynamic, interactive learning experiences. Who better than teachers to create these experiences? Personally, I don’t think we’ll be replacing the teacher with an iPad but we may be transforming the way she teaches and changing where she sits in relation to the student.
Perhaps teachers will prescribe individual learning solutions from a vast online toolkit of teaching resources rather than having to act as sole originator and communicator of knowledge in every instance. Teachers ought to be the people evaluating, selecting, and facilitating access to these resources. Some teachers will learn to use iBooks Author and other online templates and programming platforms so that they become content creators as well as content facilitators.
Perhaps iPads will increase options for how a student can attain knowledge so classroom teachers have time to do the kinds of personalized assessments of student learning that only a teacher can do. Maybe he’ll finally have time to really edit that essay or examine that problem and think about how that one individual student is processing information. Perhaps students and teachers will spend less time with the mechanics of conveying information so that time together can be true pedagogy and actual mentoring.
The most intellectually stimulating application can’t have a relationship with a student. Computers cannot mentor. Machines have no ethics or moral code. Ipads don’t have spirits. It is through relationships that we learn to assign value and make judgments about the information we receive. It takes the guidance of another human being to be able to put information into perspective. Life skills can only be taught by those who have experienced life. Only people can be creative, passionate and compassionate. And while Skype is a boon for human communication, there is an intangible spiritual connection that happens when people are learning together in the same room. Some knowledge takes root through synergy.
Information may be available anywhere, anytime. So, yes, it might be possible to replace the physical classroom teacher with an approximate technology substitute for some kinds of learning. But it takes a relationship with a teacher for a student to learn to deal wisely with information and harness the energy contained in knowledge.
The real issue is not whether the iPad2 will replace teachers, it’s whether schools are willing to put up the money to pay for both. More iPad2’s with fewer teachers is likely to result in kids with lots of information but little wisdom. Skipping the iPads and continuing on our current course may not show wisdom either. That would depend on whether or not you think what we are doing now is preparing our kids and enabling our teachers to be fully functional, influential citizens of the 21st century.
A Spectrum of opinions – article I recommend to gain more perspective: