There is a growing trend of fear and anxiety among educators, regarding the role educational technology will play in the future of their profession. This stems from the perception that technology is being sought out and used to replace teachers altogether, enabling school systems to function entirely without them. In a recent post by popular education blogger Tim Walker, he articulates this view, expressing the fear that the “‘miracle of technology’ [will be used] to cut teachers’ jobs, salaries, and increase class size.” Believing that technology, at its core, is unable to adapt to the individual learning styles of students, underpins his argument that the “benefits new technology may bring would then be overshadowed by the damage done to student learning.” The concern that he, teachers, and the unions that represent them share is the fear that technology will be employed by lawmakers as a cheap way to bring relief to budgetary bottom lines, supplanting human teachers altogether – a real fear for many teachers around the world. This must be addressed by those in the education technology field before it solidifies as the prevailing opinion among teachers about edtech.
Professionals in the edtech field are now faced with pivoting the discussion away from technology versus teachers, to technology enabling teachers, for successful classroom integration. The most important message the educational technology community needs to communicate to teachers is that, despite any advances teachers always have and will continue to be an critical element in the education process. The problem with a “teacher vs technology” debate is that it’s framed as inherently oppositional that, in reality, work better together. Without embracing technology, teachers are short selling their students, who could learn with increased efficiency, better preparing them as students in our modern era.
The National Council for Teachers of Math recently published the opinion that “effective teachers maximize the potential of technology to develop students’ understanding, stimulate their interest, and increase their proficiency in mathematics. When technology is used strategically, it can provide access to mathematics for all students.” In fact, a recent study released by the Department of Education concluded that, contrary to what was argued by Mr. Walker in his article, the “real promise of online education, experts say, is providing learning experiences that are more tailored to individual students than is possible in classrooms.”
The key difference between these seemingly disparate opinions is the role technology can serve, supporting the work of teachers outside the classroom, enabling them to customize students’ work outside of class in a way that is impossible in a classroom setting. However, just as teachers today cannot be fully successful without technology integration, modern education technology fails when teachers are not there to guide students. Living, breathing teachers are an integral part of the educational process- especially when students get stuck and need guidance. Teachers can connect the most complex of dots for students in a way that is just not possible for a programmed machine. The ultimate lesson here is that students only win when teachers and technology go hand-in-hand, not head-to-head.