• Dr. Timothy Smith

Will Robots Replace Teachers in 10 Years?

Kid looking out window

Photo Source: Pixabay

When recalling the many great teachers that have influenced my life, I do not think of the specific knowledge they imparted to me. Rather, I remember the way the great, influential teachers encouraged my learning. In a way, they nurtured, through example and support, a constant thirst for knowledge. It is with this mindset that I considered the now two-year-old statement by Sir Anthony Seldon, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham in the UK and a leading author and political commentator said that that robots will replace teachers by 2027 at the British Science Festival in September 2017. Seldon’s rationale detailed in an article by Henry Bodkin titled, “’Inspirational’ Robots to Begin Replacing Teachers in 10 Years,” suggests that robots will obtain, through artificial intelligence, the ability to take into account the individual needs of every student, thus acting as a personal tutor for every single child. (telegraph.co.uk) Using advanced analytics, including monitoring children’s brain waves, facial expressions, learning style, vocal tone, and more, the robot teachers will supposedly adapt to each child’s needs, finding the right way to inspire each student throughout her academic career. Seldon goes on to predict that traditional classes will no longer exist with each child learning at her own pace and following her own path.

Seldon’s prediction of the future of teaching placed in the hands of robots may sound like a positive remedy for the educational system that periodically gets described as “broken” and “antiquated.” However, not everyone sees the role of the teacher as automatable. In an article titled “Robots Will Never Replace Teachers but Can Boost Children’s Education,” the author cites research indicating that speech recognition remains too primitive to adapt to each child’s voice, so it cannot be able to communicate with a kid effectively like a teacher would. Also, robots excel more at specific narrow topics such as teaching vocabulary and counting, which makes them much better at being a teacher’s aide than a complete teacher substitute. (sciencedaily.com) Moreover, the implications of children learning mostly from robot teachers may present long term issues with social interaction and the abdication of self-reliance. Most importantly, according to Matthew Lynch in “Why Artificial Intelligence Will Never Replace Teachers,” that, a big part of education for children is teaching them social-emotional skills, which AI does not currently have the capability of replacing. (thetechadvocate.org)

Teachers serve multiple roles beyond conveying knowledge to students throughout a child's academic career, such as helping her develop socially and inspiring her to learn in class and beyond. The almost continuous improvement in artificial intelligence makes the use of robot teachers more possible in the near future. The author and educator Anthony Seldon predicts that by 2027 remarkable robots capable of inspiring every student to learn and grow will replace human teachers in the classroom. Not everyone shares Sir Seldon’s optimism. Researchers find that the teaching robots of today mostly excel at teaching narrow topics such as vocabulary, but they recognize that socializing our children and helping them to cope with the trials of learning and getting along in class will remain for the foreseeable future the role of human teachers. Above all, it remains to be seen if robots will genuinely be able inspire their human pupils.

Dr. Timothy Smith

Dr. Smith’s career in scientific and information research spans the areas of bioinformatics, artificial intelligence, toxicology, and chemistry. He has published a number of peer-reviewed scientific papers. He has worked over the past seventeen years developing advanced analytics, machine learning, and knowledge management tools to enable research and support high level decision making. Tim completed his Ph.D. in Toxicology at Cornell University and a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from the University of Washington.

You can buy his book on Amazon in paperback and in kindle format here.

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