Teachers fill the most important role in education but advances in technology have many people wondering if the teaching profession will ever become obsolete. In short, no. Technology can do amazing things and can fulfill an assistive and increasingly important role in education but can never truly take the place of a teacher. Effective teachers will find a balance between traditional classroom models and utilizing technology to instruct students. What is the right blend of teacher and technology?
Teachers design and plan curriculum, initiate and moderate discussions, and create a loving and safe environment where students can make mistakes, ask questions, and gain new skills. Technology provides avenues for further investigation, allows students to virtually visit places they could never otherwise go, and offers alternate learning modes to keep students interested. How do you blend the two in the most effective way possible? There is no easy answer to this question because it depends on the subject, students, and culture of the classroom; the balance may shift based on the topic being covered, as the school year progresses, and as students become more independent.
The beginning of the school year will be more teacher-centric as students become familiar with classroom routines and rules and the teacher learns the habits, learning styles, and behavioral tendencies of the class. As the year progresses, a teacher can introduce technology as an additional tool for learning or for individual skill practice. By the end of the school year, teachers can gauge how much students can be trusted to use technology independently for learning and skill practice with minimal supervision.
Teachers who utilize technology effectively will find they are better able to interact with individual students to solve problems, research interesting topics, and create presentations, movies or books. Apps that provide fun games to practice math facts, a website offering an in-depth analysis of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work, or movie editing apps all help students get engaged and stay focused on a specific project but they need a teacher’s guidance and motivation along the way. A student may never find the right app or website, may not understand how to play the game or what to do with fascinating facts they are reading, and would not know how to sequentially produce a movie in the absence of a teacher.
Even tutoring apps and websites cannot replace a real live teacher with whom a student can build a relationship. Students can find the answer to virtually any question online but only a teacher can show that student how to solve the problem, build her confidence that she can do it, and create a follow-up problem to prove that she has conquered the skill.
In today’s educational culture, technology plays a vital role but it is the teacher’s job to either limit or encourage the use of technology as the situation warrants. It is the teacher’s job to select appropriate and helpful technology to further a student’s knowledge and teach them how to use it. It is a teacher’s job to build a rapport with a student and sometime technology is the bridge that allows that relationship to happen. Blending technology and teacher expertise in effective and creative ways can create classrooms in which both students and teachers thrive.
Mimi Rothschild is a veteran homeschooling mother of 8, writer of a series of books called Cyberspace for Kids, and passionate advocate for children and education that is truly worthy of them. In 2001, Mimi and her late husband founded Learning By Grace, a leading provider of online Christian homeschooling Academies.