Commonwealth Bank has released a ‘Jobs and Skills of the Future’ report, authored by Dawson, which sheds new light on the changing role of teachers.

The report details the ways that advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, data analytics and virtual reality might affect the classrooms of the future.

Dawson says one of the most significant changes will be a new focus on student capabilities, as opposed to skills.

“In a changing world with developing machine capabilities we are effectively competing with computers, competing with machines and so we need to focus on those uniquely human capabilities such as creativity, imagination, relationships, empathy, expertise that keep us ahead,” he tells EducationHQ.

“You can have classes to understand, studying emotions, what are the differences between emotions? How we can see those, how can we respond to those, what can we do to inspire people?” he explains. 

Dawson says that a focus on these capabilities would help to prepare students for employment areas that will resist automation or grow in response to it.

Robots will not just affect the world outside the classroom, however – Dawson believes it is likely teachers will end up sharing in-class responsibilities with them.

“One of the key shifts will be the role of the teacher," he explains.

"The teacher will always be fundamental, but now instead of the teacher being the source of the teaching they will be essentially an orchestrator of resources, and critically their role will be to inspire children to tap their capabilities and to build their love and joy of learning,” he says.

“The single most fundamental role of the teacher is to inspire, it is to help them to see the possibilities, to inspire them, to give them the joy of learning. That is not something that a machine will ever be able to do, that is deeply and fundamentally human.”

Dawson says that instead, robotic teachers could help facilitate a transition to larger, more flexible classes.

“Some students in the class may sit for a while with a robot or computer which is interacting with them individually ... this can enable a teacher to, in fact, to spend more time with individuals as well. 

"The fact that a few of them are spending a little of their time having an individual interaction or conversation with a robot means that the teacher can support them in that interaction, spend more time with other individuals, circulate more,” he says.

Dawson says this will make for more efficient and flexible lesson delivery.

“The current structure is quite rigid, in the sense that we have a single class with a number of students and one teacher, and in order to make that more personalised ... we can start to move those configurations around and maybe one time when everyone is with one teacher, then maybe other times when they’re broken into groups with different teachers.”

“It’s just a simple thing of moving beyond the rigidity of single class, single group, single teacher, to one that has flexibility and being able to redesign that as best suits the needs of the students.”

Dawson says the education system must begin preparing students for the not so distant future.

“These are times of exceptional change, and the world of work is being disrupted significantly ... there many things that we can do today [to] ensure a more prosperous future for individuals and societies in Australia, and so much of that is centred on education,” he says.

“It is critical that all of us, including individuals, parents, governments, educational institutions, focus on what it is we can do today to focus on the education of the future, because that is what will be able to create a prosperous society for Australia.”