Discussion Starter: Teachers or Technicians?

In a series of recent posts, I discussed possible future scenarios for special education teachers (Part 1 here). One of the scenarios I described involved teachers morphing from instructors to facilitators as innovations such as personalized learning software encroach. Similar changes are happening now. Special education teachers in many districts have relinquished roles closely associated with teaching: lesson planning, assessment design, and content instruction. Instead, they’re implementing scripted lessons as part of commercial direct instruction programs. General education teachers could experience a shift of their own. Some would claim they have already in an age of test preparation.

My question for readers is this: should classrooms be in the hands of teachers or technicians? I’m not asking who readers want in charge of classrooms. I’m asking who should be in charge. Do we want teachers to maintain their roles as designers and implementers of instruction, or do we want them to facilitate highly individualized learning modules that students navigate on their own? Do we want teachers creating original lessons in response to performance data, or do we want them remediating through research-based programs?

I anticipate responses being solidly on the side of teachers continuing to be teachers. What I press readers to consider is whether they would continue to want this if research would begin to indicate methodology that alters the role of the teacher is more effective than what we’ve done in the past. My position in education always will be that we should do whatever yields the best results. Research already shows the effectiveness of direct instruction remediation for students with learning disabilities, which is why schools use it. More evidence is needed regarding personalized learning, but if it works, should we not be using this, even if it reduces the role of teachers? Would opposing it be akin to preventing progress?

Implications will range from changes in teacher preparation to consideration for how much educational technicians should get paid. I invite readers to think about all this and respond with what roles teachers should have in the coming decade. This need not be an either-or. Many versions of each role and combinations of the two are probable, especially with technology still emerging and school structures varying so much. Roles for licensed professionals might change, but that doesn’t mean they’ll disappear. Share your thoughts about however you think roles should be reconciled.

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Discussion Starter: Teachers or Technicians?

7 thoughts on “Discussion Starter: Teachers or Technicians?

  1. HI Jeffrey, I went to a really good high school and had great pre-module college instruction. Blackboard did not exist then. We were just transitioning to turning in assignments via electronic means.

    After grad school, which I finished in 2009, I got suckered into “online school” that was accredited, but trust me they did not live up to the standards that I would expect real college to be. They admitted anyone who applied. Also, by all means I didn’t qualify for financial aid since I’d used it up already. But they pulled some not-so-legal strings to get me aid, so they could milk it.

    I aced my first class and then, circumstances got bad for me at my living situation so I needed time off. Well they sent me a paper pretty much cornering me into staying in school. Finally, I was on the verge of homelessness and barely hanging on money-wise. The only way I could weasel my way out of the scam school was to tell them I had no internet connection, couldn’t log on, and had no phone either.

    I contacted whatever you have to contact to tell them that the school had been a scam. I told these legal folks that the school had talked me into earning a degree that wasn’t appropriate nor necessary for me, and wouldn’t lead to a great career (for a person my age). What they promised they failed to deliver.

    The classes were not even taught for the most part. They were pre-designed and the teachers only wrote occasional pep talks and that was it. Most assignments were graded by computer. They had us watch you-tubes that they had run over and over each semester. The teachers were barely teaching, they were facilitating. The quality of learning was poor. Very few papers were assigned since that meant the teacher had to do work.

    Even worse, all calls into the U were monitored, recorded or whatever. And they “shared” emails between various staff without even asking the student;s permission. This of course was to cover their butts. I didn’t have one private conversation with a single person there.

    Eventually, I did not have to pay back any of the loan money nor the financial aid money. The scam school keeps calling asking me to take classes. Those calls go straight to voicemail. I don’t think the school found out about my complaints but the Dept of Ed definitely did!

    I never mentioned any of this in my blog but eventually, I will. I’m a bit worried about what will happen if I did. Has education gone downhill? If that was representative of what it’s turning into, then yes, it has.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Exceptional Delaware 2017 and commented:
    I firmly believe this push for “personalized learning”, which isn’t even what it was originally, is a corporate education reform push to get rid of the teacher unions. The ONLY way they can do that is to make the profession less than what it is. Instead of celebrating teachers the way countries like Finland does, we are going the wrong way with this. Please let him know your thoughts on this as well.

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    1. Kevin if that is true, and if classes become more automated (like what I saw of Blackboard), no degree will be needed to be a teacher. Just someone who can do the technology well, someone with a good internet connection and decent equipment.

      This boils down to economics, too. People who are impoverished (due to, say, unemployment) are going to have a harder time breaking into the profession if what employers really want is a technician, as Jeffrey puts it. Those who are financially able to purchase a decent computer and have expensive home internet (affordable only to some) have an edge over those who are disadvantaged, degree or not.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I retired in 2011 from a career as an ELA teacher in the middle school and high school at the RI School for the Deaf. I had earned a 2-year Master’s degree from Gallaudet University to become certified to teach the deaf. Since retiring I have been researching the corporate assault on education that has been promoted by the federal Dept. of Education and my state of RI. While I acknowledge that technological advances hold great promise for students with sensory disabilities, I firmly believe that subject knowledgeable, well-trained, experienced teachers need to be in charge of diagnostic assessment, content preparation and delivery, and progress assessment. The current rage of “personalized” learning through digitized modules such as IXL is inappropriate for students without learning challenges. I shudder to think that use of these mind-numbing, counter-productive products will become the norm for teaching students with significant learning issues. In the case of early onset deafness, English language and reading/writing issues are especially challenging for students and teachers. Interpersonal communication is vital. Considering the specific heritage, life experiences, interests, and abilities of each student in small classes requires a human being. I cannot imagine that Artificial Intelligence will supplant human beings for this purpose.

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  4. To even have this discussion is scary. When you take the human relationship out of teaching, you no longer have teaching. You have training. My students are not dogs. They thrive on subject matter plus the personal relationships they develop with each and every teacher. My students are human – not data points or profit makers. The whole system as it exists today, is set up to remove the human element in teaching. That is not an option for this educator although existing in this system is getting harder and harder. Humanity must be weighed more heavily than technology. End of discussion for me.

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    1. I don’t see how quality learning can take place when it’s automated. How can students be challenged and required to think creatively and critically? I know from the automated scam school critical thinking was nonexistent, there was no real class interaction and it was all rote memorization. Also, possibility of cheating was greater. If no one uses their head who cares if the students cheat or not. After all, cheating means they have a good understanding of the technology, tee hee hee……

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