One of the things that helps a human to survive is the ability to gain new skills. We learnt to make and preserve fire, to print books, to drive and fly into space. No wonder we spend about a fourth part of our lives in educational establishments. Even after we graduate, we constantly continue to learn something: a new piece of music, a recipe or a gardening tip. It is one of the guarantees of our success both professionally and in social life.
They say it's never too late to learn. Learning is what helps us to grow and develop, to make our life more diverse and successful. In addition, it also brings us pleasure (that is, unless you're an unenthusiastic schoolchild).
The more we advance into the XXI century, the stronger technologies get involved into educational process. When we try to imagine what the school of the future will be like, the most debatable question is not the range of subjects or the length of a school day, but the role of a teacher in the classroom. There are people who claim that with such fast development of informational technologies, numerous education technology tools and artificial intelligence the necessity for having teachers will eventually disappear.
We can already learn so much using the Internet, it's such a great source of information! So many people are willing to share their experience, life hacks and tricks of the trade in exchange for your likes and comments on their YouTube channel! Self-studying has never been more available than it is nowadays. Nevertheless, why are there so many people who claim that computers (however smart they may become) will never be able to fully replace a teacher?
What is a teacher?
Well, first of all, in order to study we need a source of information. The invention of books made a big step towards the development of new forms of autonomous learning. Also, it altered the nature of some of the things that educators traditionally did in the classroom. But did it replace teachers? No! Yet, it simply changed their functions. They got more time for explaining and commenting, as well as analyzing and discussing. I think this is what is going to happen now. Technologies provide access to a boundless variety of free sources, which is a huge advantage, don't you agree? However, it doesn't mean that students know how to use this information to benefit them. Moreover, the process of learning is much faster, more interesting and successful when you know where to look! A good teacher is our guide and helps us to find the right way.
One more important thing that only teachers can provide is human attitude. There was an interesting story that proved that love helps a child to survive and does more good than physically and psychologically sterile environment.
What I mean is that a teacher gives us more than just figures and facts, he/she becomes our role model, especially throughout early childhood education. They can be a positive influence and an inspiration for us to set and achieve goals. I know many people who say that it was the teacher who shaped them and helped to find the right direction. I have no idea how they do it, but I know for sure that many of my teachers influenced my choices in life and helped me to be in the position I am today. Such a tight bond sometimes remains there during our whole lives. In other words, we need our classroom to be alive and real, we need to learn human interaction. A school is not just a temple of knowledge, rather a place to prepare for future life as a member of community.
I fully agree with what executive head teacher Pamela Wright said at a recent British Council debate.
"It (teaching) is about the trust and bond between a teacher and young person (and parents) that creates the environment where learning can occur and grow. Virtual learning simply cannot do that. I would argue that in a world now where young people are retreating more and more into virtual unreality, the teaching profession is more important than it ever was. It is teaching that keeps it real – teaching that keeps young people alive."
So I don't think it is something we should ignore. Machines won't be able to give us all that. Warmth and friendliness, affection and interest, advice and creative ideas given by a teacher must remain an integral part of our education.
What about technology?
You should be careful though to understand that using technology for classroom learning should be well-thought through and to the point. It can't and shouldn't become the lesson itself, it should be there to enhance the process and ensure only positive effects.
In my opinion, a teacher will always be there to assist and explain, to support and to scold us when we need it (even if we think otherwise). However, it will be horribly wrong not to take advantage of all the benefits that modern technologies can offer us in order to facilitate and improve student learning. Let's see how it is already possible today.
Here are some basic examples how modern technology for teachers can make the job both easier and more efficient.
1. Social networks and stuff
It is a ready-made tool that is available to any person, including teachers. Having an online community, a web page or a blog will help educators to constantly keep in touch with students. The main idea is that such platforms help to contact each other at any time, they promote informal communication and help to install closer relationship between participants. And, of course, you can use it to share links and news, podcasts and weblogs. Apart from becoming closer to each other, it also helps to improve autonomy in learning. All of this make social networks one of the best teaching tools for educators.
2. Learning management systems
Technology can be a way to reduce the level of stress for teachers. Learning management systems (LMS) will significantly save their time that is usually spent on administrative tasks. Such software for teachers will also facilitate the process of communicating with parents.
Nevertheless, I have found some proof that some teacher software programs currently hold some difficulties concerning their implementation. Many teachers have to keep both handwritten and electronic records (only the former one being a legal document at the moment). This is quite frustrating because, as a result, the amount of work is doubled. But, changes happen gradually, so it's a normal process of adopting new features. So, as I see it, learning management systems are likely to dominate in future and with time they will be able to make a teacher's life much easier. The sooner we start the faster we adjust and benefit from them.
3. e-Learning platforms
This, to my mind, is one of the most effective ways of how to use technology in the classroom at present. Here's what it can look like. Today's students seek greater autonomy, connectivity and socio-experiential learning. All this can be done if you decide to create e-Learning platforms. In addition, they can be bright and fun like STAV online, for example. (Here's its overview in English.) Such platforms are sure to become great motivation for kids if elementary teachers decide to apply it, but, of course, they can be adapted to any level and age.
Duly developed interactive learning platforms provide unlimited online guided practice and feedback. Thanks to online testing software, teachers can manage students' progress round the clock and help them where and when it is necessary! In addition, assessment software frees teachers from creating extra drilling tasks (as well as checking and grading them!). As a result more time in the classroom can be spent on more creative and productive tasks like discussions, debates and other forms of interaction.
Combining technology and education: pros and cons
In conclusion, I can surely say that we must never lose the center, the inspiration and the moving force of education – our teachers. Ideally, they are our mentors, leaders and guides. Teaching is not simply about giving information and checking assignments, it is about explaining, motivating and encouraging. It doesn't mean that there is no place for technology in the classroom. Undoubtedly, there is. Let's just not forget that it should be rational. The ability to destroy monsters in computer games or record and upload a video is not the same as being able to apply new technologies in terms of teaching. A teacher is someone who sees the whole picture: how and what software to apply for a particular objective.
Thus, technology is due to replace some of the functions and duties that teachers have now. Also, it is crucial for them to stay updated with modern trends and equip themselves with the latest technology.
A teacher of the XXI century is simply unimaginable without educational software in the classroom. Technology has an immense power to upgrade today's educational system. I can't but agree with Walter Isaacson who admitted the potential for "a partnership between humans and machines, a symbiosis where each side does what it does best."
"Machines augment rather than replicate and replace human intelligence. We humanists should root for the triumph of this human-machine partnership strategy, because it preserves the importance of the connection between the humanities and the sciences."
~ Walter Isaacson
So, if you ask me whether teachers will be substituted, I will surely say that they will… they WILL be replaced by those who USE technology. If you want to be in the know, it's high time for you to start using it. So if you feel the need for a great team of developers who are ready to realize your ideas, we will be more than happy to help you!