Computers the new teachers? Not on my watch!

An Education Minister has signalled the end of the traditional teacher as the role changes beyond recognition due to new technology. Matthew Hancock, the skills and enterprise minister, unveiled plans for computers to take the lead in “imparting knowledge” while teachers focus on “mentoring, coaching and motivating”.

“Technology is a tool to empower teachers so they can concentrate on motivation and character,” Hancock said.

Ministers have set up a Whitehall unit to examine how children can be taught by computers that use sophisticated algorithms to set the pace according to individual ability.

Hancock argues that online tuition is ‘incredibly powerful’ and could help to raise Britain from the bottom of the educational league tables.

In order to disprove Hancock’s theory, I am going to cite an example from a couple of countries high up the Pisa rankings: South Korea and Japan. This comes from a couple of videos that a former lecturer at uni who is Japanese and a program I saw on TV, of which I forgot the name of now (memory of goldfish I know!). What I noticed in both of these classrooms was quite surprising. There was no computer of any form in the classroom at all. The teacher was writing on a blackboard, the children were all writing in books and not on a laptop. These countries significantly outrank ours in the Pisa scales, and yet they teach very much like we did before we got suckered into this notion that ‘technology is the way forward’ in education. All this makes me think we should go back to the old days to even back when I was at school. I’m just about old enough to remember blackboards as they were replaced when I was in Year 1 many moons ago. Even then they were replaced with normal whiteboards and not interactive ones. I didn’t learn with all of this technology and to this day I don’t see the need for it as much as some of my colleagues in the profession do.

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