Last year, a group of AI experts settled on 2047 as the point at which we’ll achieve AGI, or artificial general intelligence. What that will mean for the human race cannot be known with any certainty, but in the meantime at least teachers' jobs seem safe.
In short, because teaching is much more than instructing. Cast your mind back to your education. Chances are you had a teacher who made more of an impact than the rest. That one teacher who took an interest, inspired you, and got the best out of you. What set that teacher apart from the rest were uniquely human qualities?
Education consultant, Dan Haesler, describes that special teacher effect in the following terms: “It’s not because they were brilliant at teaching their subject – although that probably helped – but because they were brilliant at teaching. It’s that they were interested in you, that they cared.”
And that caring can count for a lot. According to University of Melbourne education researcher John Hattie, while student ability accounts for about 50 per cent of learning outcomes, the second greatest influence is the teacher at 30 per cent.
Having a good teacher early on can even make you rich, or richer than you would have been otherwise. Research has shown that a single, highly-effective teacher in primary school can increase a student’s earnings at age 28 by 1.65 per cent.
But back to teachers, and robots.
“Teaching is one of those professions that won’t become obsolete,” says Haesler.
“The reason is that good teachers are able to build good relationships with their students. You can’t teach anybody anything unless you have a good, trusting relationship with them, which is what good teachers are really skilled at. It’s really hard to measure because it’s about human interaction and human relationships. No robot is ever going to be able to do that.”
Of course, that’s not to suggest that the teaching profession won’t undergo tremendous change in the short-to-medium term. The classrooms of today already look markedly different to the ones most us learned to read and write in. The modern school is equipped with high-tech AV equipment, devices for all, and even ‘breakout spaces’ that lend schools a certain Silicon Valley vibe. And who knows? In the future, teachers may even come to be joined in the classroom by ‘cobots’ that assist them in their duties.
But the biggest, and most pressing, challenges facing the teaching profession arguably have less to do with technology and more to do with adapting to our increasingly augmented and frenetic reality.
Teachers as carers
With more and more parents working through their childrens’ formative years, kids are spending more time at school than they once did. Today’s teachers are also de facto carers, shouldering more of the burden associated with raising a child than they ever have before, and they need to training and support to reflect this shift.
Teachers as resilience coaches
If they’re not already, teachers will need to equip their students with the resilience and mental toughness required to thrive in the future. With work becoming less predictable and more entrepreneurial, students will need help coping with the ups and downs that an uncertain future is likely to throw at them.
Teachers as ‘learning designers’
Finally, as life in general becomes more individualised and customisable, education will need to follow suit. And cognitive scientist, Professor Guy Claxton, believes changing the job title is a step in the right direction.
As students become more active, engaged learners who apply researched knowledge in practical ways, Professor Claxton believes we should drop ‘teacher’ in favour of ‘learning designer’.
It makes sense to us.
To find out more about where education is headed, download Canon’s new whitepaper, The Future of Education, which canvasses the thoughts, opinions and predictions of a wide range of education experts.