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Will A.I. Replace Teachers?

Anthony Seldon is a British education expert that made the buzz in late 2017 by declaring that in 2027 teachers will be replaced by AI, offering a rich analysis explaining that it will, but it also should happen this way. The analysis was published in many, many, many influential media, like the World Economic Forum.

This declaration is aggressive and if you don’t read the article until the end, you’ll understand that teachers are kind of doomed. Which is complete nonsense?

Teachers will play a most important role for many years to come…

AI threatens a great number of jobs, it’s true. Up to 800 million according to McKinsey’s study although those “in-the-process-to-be lost jobs” means also a whole lot of new ones will be created.

Yes, some jobs are really threatened and will have to deeply change as this analysis shows (like for example financial analysts, doctors, drivers etc.).

Pedagogy is out of this spectrum as it consists of a human relationships activity based on social skills. As it is depicted in Sapiens, written by History professor Yuval Noah Harari, what makes us humans is our capacity to tell stories, construct realities, to develop intersubjectivity. The latter is the basis of education but just can’t be mastered by AI.

AI are thousands of times behind what we can achieve, they are tools, not emotionally sensitive and empathetic persons. And I’m not even talking about the current stage of development of AI which is… well, we’re only at the beginning of it.

Teachers not only will play a crucial role in tomorrow’s society, but their profession will be highly exciting. NEVERTHELESS! It doesn’t mean technology will not play a role in the development of this profession, on the contrary...

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AI will only help teachers focus on what matters

If you go further into Seldon’s study, you will find some more interesting points. Notably, the development of AI as professors’ assistants. There lies what will 1. improve learning and 2. will make the profession of teaching more exciting than ever.

Why?

Teachers spend too much time on tasks that haven’t got a significant added value. Creating exams, marking them, managing the flow of documents and organizing logistics during exam sessions currently isn’t really impactful in the learning process. These are unintegrated or unable-to-be-integrated tasks in the learning process, having thus little use for the core of the subject: pedagogy innovation.

That’s where an AI assistant solves this problem. How?

  • By clarifying situations through data collection and visualisation (also called Learning analytics solutions or Multimodal Learning analytics), thus helping teachers understand better how to guide their students through their work.

  • By automating marking, thus letting teachers the pleasure to comment and to communicate with students on how to improve.
  • By facilitating exam creation
  • Finally, by helping them automate all the administrative tasks that take time.

That’s notably what Rose Luckin, a professor at the University College London Knowledge Lab, affirmed in a 2017 study. Helping professors in their tasks and giving them more time to analyze and improve their learning content should be the main mission of AI in Education.

Inevitably, it would also greatly help solving the shortage of professors worldwide and promote the profession as an exciting, entrepreneurial adventure with learning.

AI will NEVER replace teachers

Dans tous les cas, le numérique n’est pas en mesure d’entrer en compétition avec le cerveau humain et sa maîtrise des relations humaines.

In any case, digital can’t compete with human brains and human relationships, period. Interviewed by the media Futurism, Rose Luckin declared : “I do not believe that any robot can fulfil the wide range of tasks that a human teacher completes on a daily basis, nor do I believe that any robot will develop the vast repertoire of skills and abilities that a human teacher possesses”.

Take these simple facts:

  • Paul Reber, professor of psychology at Northwestern University declared that “Human brain storage capacity is virtually unlimited and doesn’t get used up”

  • George Dvorsky, a senior reporter at Gizmodo, a media specialized in new technologies, affirmed that brain’s memory capacity is a quadrillion, or 10, bytes. Astoundingly, this is about the same amount needed to store the entire internet!

  • Terrence Sejnowski, Salk Institute professor declared “We discovered the key to unlocking the design principle for how hippocampal neurons function with low energy but high computation power. Our new measurements of the brain’s memory capacity increase conservative estimates by a factor of 10 to at least a petabyte, in the same ballpark as the World Wide Web.” This recent discovery revolutionized the way we thought about human brains and it’s just the beginning.

Apart from this, just like the McKinsey report stated, jobs implicating human skills are going to be the most demanding and the most needed. Yes, the job of professor will change deeply. No, AI will NEVER replace teachers, on the contrary, it will empower them!

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