The infotech boom has already shrunk many bustling and coveted campuses that boasted of long queues and a scramble for admissions. Today we see most of the reputable universities and colleges offering online and blended learning options. With the accelerating pace of technology, the education sector has also expanded its reach through online courses, free learning / training programs tutored by computers. The new technologies have already offered an explosive potential for online tutoring and e -moderation. We are not far away from the next sweeping revolution which will take over human teachers completely – welcome to the age of Artificial Intelligence.
As AI improves and enters classrooms, ever wondered what the teacher’s role would be reduced to? Does it forecast a complete upheaval and bleak prospect for teachers and educators? Will most of us become redundant?
Well it is hard to say. But what is certain is, in the long run, robot teachers and automation will keep generating new types of jobs and chart a new course for the fraternity to tread on. The world witnessed Industrial revolution, which took away most of the manual jobs, but for every job lost, a new one sprung up, thus improving our living standards. There’s no doubt that the potential impact of automation and rise of AI is immense and will change the scene of most jobs, but it will create a new crop of teachers and educators and will redefine their role in education.
Machine learning and robotics will be a game changer and will churn out many more options and opportunities giving rise to new breed of teachers who’d work behind the scenes closely with the robot programmers on instructional software. I visualise the classroom scene ‘as a plane on auto pilot’. It may well turn out that putting the burden of teaching on to robots will absolve teachers of classroom toil but teachers may have the devil’s own job working with infotech engineers and software developers. Teachers may find themselves delving into analysing human behaviour, emotions and responses to serve the robot teachers indirectly. Having to understand the emotions, desires and decipher the algorithms would make their jobs more daunting. The success of the whole concept of Robot teachers would rest on infotech as well as the teachers’ team.
In this sense newer responsibilities and roles will come to the fore, such as monitoring and support to fit into the machine learning mechanism. Already there’s lot of emphasis on inclusion of digital technologies in the EFL world, perhaps digital literacy and a high level of infotech expertise will become an embedded feature in EFL qualifications. For now I don’t imagine AI sweeping off the cognitive role of human teachers but with breakthroughs in behavioural economics and neuroscience, robots might even compete with the ‘cognitive function ‘ of humans. (Yuval Noah Harari,2018). As scientists hack humans, to gain understanding of how humans make decisions, this edge over AI in the realm of cognitive ability may soon become a myth as robots will better analyse human behaviour and predict decisions (ibid pg 20) as they develop into more intelligent entities.