Many of us remember the days when technology in schools meant a portacabin with about four old PCs. Therefore, it may look strange to see textbooks gradually being replaced by laptops and blackboards with interactive computerised whiteboards. As children become ever more technology savvy and the internet presents an infinite learning resource, will the role of teachers dwindle in classrooms?
Dedicated researchers, like Dr Cross and Dr Prescott of the Student Led Technology, Enhanced Learning and Teaching project at the University of Bolton are increasingly exploring these very issues.
At first glance, the teaching potential of technology seems endless. During an interactive experiment, Telegraph writer Sophie Curtis found creative use of technology wasn’t necessarily more educational than a traditional lesson, but she did find it far more engaging.
In the experiment, Curtis sat through two English lessons. One involved a textbook and a teacher talking for an hour which, although informative, could get a little boring. The other explored Romeo and Juliet via numerous differing film adaptations, and then encouraged students to use online research to type up an essay response. The multi-media approach proved far more engaging for students, therefore helping them to remain more alert and responsive to learning.
So, technology can potentially make the classroom more engaging and help students pay more attention in class – but are there any downsides?
In many cases the downsides come from teachers not understanding the technology well enough. In the USA, Stanford University professor Larry Cuban found teachers have been very slow to adapt. Teachers who’ve gone through traditional schooling and training, and have been teaching in traditional ways, have struggled to engage pupils in the potential of utilising technology creatively. Instead, many just take their same old fashioned lectures and present them through Powerpoint slides instead of a chalkboard.
These problems could, controversially, be solved by the technology itself. One possibility for futuristic education could be the “Super Teacher”. A single expert teacher who can prepare a range of multi-media presentations and resources that will beam out to multiple schools, and even communicate with many classrooms instantly via live online video links. This approach could bypass that skills gap and transform education. It could, however, leave the remaining teachers as little more than IT facilitators.
So, could teachers end up becoming redundant? As technology changes so radically over time: only time will tell.