By John Chubb, Independent School, Winter 2015
…but technology will change the traditional roles of the teacher.
For all of the growth in online course-taking and full-time online schooling, the most action in education technology is in blended learning. Experience with online education is beginning to indicate that the most successful learning experiences generally involve a mix of technology-supported and teacher-supported instruction….
In every blended-learning model, teachers play crucial roles. If students choose online lessons from playlists, teachers work as coaches. If students rotate from online instruction to collaborative projects to small-group instruction, teachers accelerate and remediate students in small groups while challenging students through applied projects that the students often design themselves. If instruction flexes between technology-driven and teacher-led, the teacher not only teaches but also orchestrates the transitions.
To be clear, technology does and will change the traditional roles of the teacher. Teachers will be responsible much less for coverage of core knowledge and skills. Teachers will carry less of the burden of routine student assessment. Students will have more control over their learning, using technology to personalize a path of greatest success. Teachers will be called on to spend more time working with students individually and less time working with whole groups. They will need to differentiate their instruction rather than teach to the middle. They will need to challenge students to think at higher levels and to apply their knowledge to practical problems and in collaboration with other students–all things technology cannot do very well.
In other words, technology will ask that all teachers do what great teachers do already. Technology will not replace teachers, but it will demand that schools employ teachers of ever-greater professional quality. With thoughtful use of technology, our current all-star teachers will be even more effective in supporting, guiding, inspiring, and reaching all of their students.
Will technology enable schools to [use] fewer teachers than they do today? Perhaps, but not rapidly or dramatically so. Remember that online courses require teachers—highcaliber ones. Brick-and-mortar teachers may be somewhat fewer in number in the coming years, but their status and even their pay will be higher. That is the nature of disruptive technology—replacing routine work with technology and introducing new work by highly skilled professionals.
John Chubb is president of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS).