Will technology make teachers redundant?

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010 | technology, Uncategorized

The prospect of losing your job can cause much anxiety.  When you see people around you being retrenched it is natural to be concerned about your own job security.

Teachers are not immune to layoffs.  When the government cuts budgets and there is talk about teachers being “in excess” and terms such as reorganization, downsizing and rationalization appear in the papers, panic sets in.

It is only natural that teachers wonder how the introduction of technology in schools could impact on their prospects of continued employment.  They may think back to the time of the industrial revolution – many mine workers and factory workers lost their jobs when machines were used for functions previously performed by the workers.

“Won’t computers take over my job?” some teachers may ask.

The answer to this question is an emphatic “no”.  Machines can take over manual repetitive tasks.  But they can not perform those tasks requiring higher order thinking – and teaching is possibly one of the most complex activities on earth.  Teachers are working with the minds of learners, shaping them, while trying to find the best teaching technique to match the learning style of each one of their learners.

You can use computers and related tools without any fear of redundancy.  When a carpenter replaces a manual saw with an electric one, does that make the human redundant?  Of course not – but it does make the carpenter more productive.  The same principle applies when technology becomes available in a school.

Don’t fear!  Digital tools in your classroom will never make you redundant.  A creative, intelligent teacher is needed to plan lessons – a piece of equipment can’t do this!  And what good will electronic tools do without a teacher when the power goes off?

Technology may bring unexpected advantages to you if you do face job insecurity.  If you become proficient in its use, you will be more marketable.  The high cost of training a teacher to become a skilled technology practitioner benefits you in two ways: when the school is firing, you are unlikely to be the one to go owing to the investment made in you, and when a school is hiring, it will be a bargain to employ you since you won’t need expensive training.

During economically uncertain times technology can be your best friend – treat it as such by learning to work with it.

While there are learners, teachers will never be redundant

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4 Comments to Will technology make teachers redundant?

Zubeida
Tuesday, 17 August, 2010

I agree with you 100%. There is no way that technology can ever replace an educator. The tools are only as good as the person using it. It can make our lives easier but learners still need the human person around them to develop holistically. There will be learners as long as life on Earth exists. So educators do not fear when techology comes like a spear. You will be the one that conquers it each year.

Mark C
Wednesday, 18 August, 2010

Strangely today I was listening to Cape Talk radio where two people are deciding to home-school their children, mainly using computers. Their reasoning is that these e-teacher’s don’t strike, stay absent, lessons are available 24/7/365, no insults, no bullying etc. etc. What a selfish way of looking at the world. Education only for us and bugger the rest.

While I am a staunch supporter of ICT in education I do not advocate that it is the only way to learn or that it will make our children super intelligent. It is another interesting and fascinating tool in the teacher and learner’s hands to facilitate both teaching and learning.

I pity the two people mentioned above when they find out that their precious little Johnny/Phumza do not easily take to learning with technology or have major learning barriers that cannot be directly diagnosed by the e-teacher or that some things need a human for explaining how things fit together.

I have no doubt that there are people that can learn on their own electronically without a teacher, but most of us need one. Very few of us can learn on our own without guidance.

Andy B
Thursday, 19 August, 2010

Hi Zubeida, Mark (& Kobus):

Yes the personal contact stuff is really important, but we need to think carefully how society at large will respond to perceptions of poor quality teaching. It’s not just about home-schooling, there are other issues.

In a relatively poor area of the Cape Flats, a young man set up a wireless network that became a focal point for his friends (and others?) to gain access to educational information and other services that supplemented inadequate services (and teaching) at the school. Kids are using Mxit for many reasons, but one of them is to assist with their learning, in their own way, a way that we “grown ups” might not immediately recognise. And in *any* case where young people gain access to useful technology it changes the nature of education. That’s good and bad, of course. But I think we need to try and understand the dramatic changes in lifestyle that are upon us, and how it will exacerbate perceptions of poor teaching if teachers do not find a way to “keep up”.

Access to teaching material and learning resources is now a global phenomenon and the nature of education *IS* going to change. Alternative modes of learning are going to abound, and personally I believe that home-schooling (and community-schooling) can work very well, and not in an elitist sense. In Brazil, the squatter camps (“favelas”) devised their own education because the state provided none, and technology was a significant part of the story.

So, the question is, how do we assist teachers to embrace technology when they feel underpaid, undervalued and over worked? This needs extremely careful management of education, at all levels. Without that, the role and standing of teachers will continue to decline, with dreadful consequences for the profession, and possible for society.

Kobus van wYK
Thursday, 19 August, 2010

Andy, your comments are spot on! I like the example of the favelas, where communities take responsibility for the education of their children. I’m afraid that, unless communities and the private sector play a greater role in education, the future is indeed bleak!

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