If you can be replaced by a video then you should be.
If you can be replaced by a computer program than you should be.
This post is not designed to incite anger. It is not to suggest that technology is a better job at teaching that most educators. The purpose of this post is to get some thoughts off my chest (starting with the above two lines).
I try to keep a bead on where educational technology is headed (and technology more generally), and I have some fears but also see awesome opportunities. More of the latter to be honest. However, I worry that if we don’t rethink our objectives as educators then we will be replaced by software and devices. There are software programs (that are only getting better) that can teach a lesson (via video), give practice problems, assess those problems, give instant feedback, recommend remediation exercises, assess, and continue the loop. So if this is all your classroom consists of then software might, and maybe should, replace you. The program might struggle with answering specific questions a student has but it’s not unreasonable to think that within the next few decades a program could be complex enough to do just that.
If this is the case then the teachers role has to change. It can no longer be the person that delivers content, gives assessments, grades them, and moves onto the next concept. We have to seriously think about what our students need from us as educators to be successful in the type of world that will exist in the next decade. We need a generation of people that can communicate well, collaborate effectively, that is not afraid to take on hard problems, and that has a mechanism and thought process for challenging those problems. We need a generation that can think divergently and flexibly. Smarter software and machines means fewer workers are needed for more jobs. It means more and more things will be automated and the need for a human being to do certain types of work will continue to decrease. And the sharing economy, I don’t really want want my students to embrace that either. This and a myriad of other problems (climate change, economic inequality, global unrest, etc.) mean that students can’t leave us with a skill set designed for the 20th century. In order to make this shift educators need to to rethink old systems, embrace risk and failure, and above all view themselves as innovators.
The biggest problems humanity has ever faced will have to be solved by this generation. What can we do to make sure our students are equipped to solve them?