I just read an article in The June 2013 Popular Science about how toys are preparing kids for a future with robotic companions. The cover blurb, however, says “the toys that are training your children”. This got me thinking: will robots end up teaching our children in the future? What would that future look like?
I could certainly imagine it happening, especially when I consider the potential benefits; for example, replacing teachers with “educational devices” would make it possible to precisely standardize education and provide a framework for simultaneously updating the entire system, ensuring that the latest information and techniques could be utilized. There would be no potential for abusive teachers, or teachers who teach with dittos, as though they don’t have to put much effort into it. In financial terms, a teacher’s salary would be replaced by the cost and maintenance of said robo-teachers, which in theory would be much less expensive. Also, classroom size may become less of an issue.
I could see such a turn making homeschooling a more palatable option for stay-at-home parents. After all, if one could adequately educate their children through the use of software, or possibly a rented educational appliance, wouldn’t that be a better option than public school, which will probably have to become more like factories with automated inventory control and passcards? Or would their socialization become an issue? Would wealthier families still opt for human tutors, creating the perception that it’s somehow better to be taught by people vs. machines? Would our taxes go down in accordance with the lower cost of public education or a tax break be provided for homeschoolers who rent? What about arts and the humanities- how could a machine ever teach or grade art?
And finally, what would happen to all of the displaced teachers? Would they become classroom operators? Auditors? Distance observers for the oversight advisory committee? Will they have to find a new place in the world?
Chances are good, of course, that it’s not all that bad. If history has taught us anything it’s that technology usually doesn’t displace workers as much as it augments their ability to efficiently handle an increased and more demanding workload. As increasingly higher standards are placed on public education, robotic educational devices may be hailed as time-savers and productivity-enhancers.
So what do you think? Will robots become the teachers of the future? How could education majors serve in a world where robots teach? Leave your comments below.