Machine Teaching – Technology + Human Element

October 14, 2015

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Machine Teaching – Technology + Human Element

Oh, the wonders of technology, particularly in teaching and learning. Consider all the ways in which machines have improved the delivery of education:

  1. Computer-Assisted Learning: Software, apps, and online tools and websites can now delivery wonderfully interactive learning experiences to students of all ages and grade levels.
  2. Research: Students can conduct research on any topic with their computers connect to high-speed Internet access and to libraries and other scholarly materials.
  3. Online Coursework: Students can opt to take coursework online, getting high school and college credit.
  4. Course Portals: Students attending brick and mortar institutions have portals for every course – to submit coursework, to take tests, to engage in discussions and to access their instructors/professors during non-class time.
  5. Teachers have smartboards, interactive white boards, and the ability to tap into real time instructional activities (e.g. CNN News).
  6. Parents who home school their children have access to the latest curricular materials and learning activities
  7. Students with impairments have reading machines and assistive machines/technology for hearing and visual handicaps
  8. Biology students can conduct interactive virtual dissections, eliminating the need for actual specimens in a lab activity.

Yes, machine teaching has transformed the way learning is delivered to students, and as technology continues to evolve, the ability for students to interact and engage as they learn will only improve. Indeed, some are predicting full virtual classrooms without teachers at all – just “supervisors” who ensure student compliance and focus and who resolve technology issues as they arise.

The Human Element

As far as technology has moved education, it has not yet replaced the physical presence of teachers and instructors. To understand this is to understand the human psyche.

  1. As wonderful as machines are and as much as they can do, there is still the basic need for human contact and relationships. It is difficult to have a “relationship” with a computer.
  2. Particularly with younger students, the relationships that are developed between teacher and student are part of what motivates students to perform. They seek approval and praise from adults, and a computer can only meet this need in a limited way.

Science and Art

Teaching is a science and an art. What machine learning contributes improves the science of education in phenomenal ways. Students are exposed to grand experiences and learning activities and to a virtual world that will only get better. Teachers, however, supply the art. They are the actors and actresses that instill a love of learning, that promote personal relationships with their students so that they want to set goals and excel in learning and so that they receive the human praise and love they need. Maybe someday, a holographic image may come from the screen and give a child a hug, a pat on the shoulder, and the encouragement s/he needs to move forward. Until then, the teacher is a prime factor in the educational experience.