Should sophisticated interactive software be allowed to replace teachers

Criterion A

There is a small but growing concern among educators that computers may one day replace them in the classroom states Mark Shoup.

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Many consider computers an excellent method of teaching. It enables students to work at their own pace, it makes learning fun and they have all the information they need at their fingertips. On the other hand, there are concerns that students need the guidance and support of human teachers to encourage them to cover the work that not only they want to know, but also that they need to, and to do this in appropriate lengths of time. Unlike books, it is difficult to read more than three or four pages of text on a computer screen so much of it becomes interactive games – which may not be the best way to teach children.

Without teachers putting on pressure and enforcing deadlines, the work may simply not get done at all, or be done very slowly and to a poor standard with pupils failing to remain focused and concentrating and possibly becoming distracted by non-educational games and sites as well as e mail on the internet.

Sometimes, pupils have questions they want to ask arising from their studies, or need something re-explained from a slightly different angle to ensure their understanding. Without teachers on hand, who would do this?

Clifford Stall made a poignant comment; “There is a wide gulf between information, which computers have lots of, and knowledge, which computers have none of”. Human teachers, of course, do have knowledge.

Criterion B

Before the era of computers, classrooms relied solely on pen and paper, and the teacher used the blackboard and books as their main tools or methods of teaching. There were no alternatives. Every pupil had constant contact with the teacher who would make sure they understood the work, provide memory hooks in order that students could remember important information in exams and enforce deadlines so that work was completed on time allowing all work to be finished on course, in time for exams or the end of term.

As computers became smaller, less expensive and more part of our world and with the development and refinement of interactive software, the government actively encouraged their introduction into schools everywhere, in as larger numbers as possible. Supermarkets even ran schemes whereby schools could collect tokens with which they could purchase computers. This was done to enable students to grow up learning how to use a computer competently as this was seen to be “the future” and to integrate a new method of teaching into their education that would be different and fun. The internet was now relied upon for research, virtually replacing books entirely. Contact time with the teacher was now reduced and it is possible that this reduction could continue until there is little or no teacher-student contact.

Criterion C

If computers were allowed to replace teachers, the implications would be enormous. Unemployment levels would sore, putting a huge strain on our government who would then have to provide for them financially. Redundant teachers may have to be treated for depression in NHS hospitals.

Aside from this, the cost to install all the technology required to enable human teacher free learning would be considerable, falling mainly on the government in the case of state schools and many private schools may simply not be able to afford this and be forced to close – in turn putting an even bigger strain on our state schools with an increased intake of pupils who can no longer attend private schools.

Pupils spending all day in front of the computer may experience health problems such as neck or back problems and damaged eye sight, putting even further strain on the health system.

Of course, the question must be raised as to whether pupils would complete their work and gain a sound education. If they failed to do this then they would be uneducated and fail to obtain jobs, causing more unemployment.

Criterion D

I believe it would be beneficial to integrate computers into teaching and use them alongside human teachers as an alternative method and as a source of information – basically, keep computers as they are now in the class room and not let them dominate anymore teaching time. The problem is that the level to which computers take over the jobs of teachers is hard to control and so government guidelines would need to be officially set down.

Alternatively, interactive software could be further improved to make it a more effective method of teaching. However, this would involve a lot of money going into research and even when software was sufficiently developed there would still be problems such as who would chase up deadlines, who would ensure the work was done on time and who would ensure each pupil had a sufficient level of understanding of each topic?

I would suggest that both of these methods are used together. It would be beneficial to improve interactive software so that when computers are used for teaching this is much more effective and worth while but at the same time, ensure that computers do not take up to much teaching time to allow the proper supervision and teachers to keep a check on dead lines, any problems, and understanding.