The aim of this paper is to critically assess and conclude whether computers should replace teachers education disseminating environments. The pros and cons of using a teacher will be laid out versus the pros and cons of using the computer.
The main objectives here therefore are to establish that the teacher is vital in the learning process. That the computer cannot effectively replace a teacher in any learning mode.
That computer based methods are available but their shortcomings are a strong point against computers replacing teachers in the learning processes.
A conclusion will then be drawn based on the findings. It is important to note that the computer as a tool has both strong and weak points. Similarly the teacher as a human has strong and weak points.
Man versus machine has been a big debate for a long time. It’s on this basis that we are trying to build a case for or against computers replacing teachers. This study attempts to look at this statement in light of the learning process in our schools.
The learning process is vital to every human. Modes of learning will however vary, but one always vital mode involves a teacher student setup. With increasing computer usage it’s becoming evident that the once traditional roles are being taken over by computers.
“Online learning or e- learning as is sometimes referred to is increasingly employing computer technology to support the process.” (Rusell 2005, Philips 2010)
The computer is core in this process. Special rooms are used where capture cameras are mounted. These cameras being digital in nature will then transmit these images to computer screen. If a number of computers are interconnected the images are multicast to different computer users who may be in one location or dispersed. By so doing the different terminals have synchronized images which could include lecture / learning sessions.
During any learning process a teacher becomes a vital contributor and player. A teacher in this case is a human being trained in particular area of application and thus qualified to offer services that will relate to some define and dependable decisions during the learning process. All the teaching activities are directed to a learner who solely depends on the teacher to gain the much needed knowledge. While we look at this we can quickly be able to understand that unlike a machine or robot the teacher can intuitively gauge and dictate the mood of the learning process and can effectively adjust to improve the overall learning process. A computer that could nearly equal this task must be running highly artificial intelligence software. The program (artificial intelligence) can be developed over a period of time at near prohibitive costs. With this kind of setup still the computer may be limited in a variety of areas of use. E- learning or online learning is cautiously being adopted though the advantages of the conventionally based school systems offering a face to face mode of learning still outweigh the e-learning. However in the long run the likely advantages of e-learning over traditional conventional face to face interaction in schools will be realize (Russell 2005)
We also understand that in the learning process complex thought patterns are established and perfected over time. These can then be taught to a learner who in the same case may employ almost the same thought patterns.
However all these processes cannot happen in a programmed and isolated environment such as one where the computer is being employed.
Computers have been seen to replace simple human executable procedures that are considered repetitive. The advantage these computers have over humans has been their speed and efficiency in the execution of these tasks. However they may not be relied upon 100% to execute the processes as they are prone to imminent breakdowns which often result in catastrophic results. We are well aware of computer systems which malfunctioned just because of a simple infusion into the system like maybe a full stop inside the execution code resulting into system crashes that grounded whole business enterprises.
Using another simple example of man versus machine contest today, we can mention the autopilot procedure in the airplanes today. We realize that the once traditional processes that were carried out by humans are ingrained into automated processes that are executed by computer programs running on board airplanes. We however understand that the human pilot is always at hand to override some decisions during this processing.
While we can map this onto a learning process we clearly see that the computer in the autopilot scenario does not replace the human pilot but just picks out the repetitive procedures and perfects the processing or execution of these repetitive tasks. The computer systems however offer no room for alternative or ad-hoc processes even in the event that they should be urgently needed.
The rigidity of these computer systems makes them unsuitable to replace a human but may only be used by apportioning them part of the overall human dependant task in this case a task such as teaching.
While learning we sometimes adjust through such complex human to human exchanges that are at times un-programmable thereby making the computer as a tool unsuitable to completely taking over and handling the learning process.
A teacher can quickly discover and adjust to his or her student’s learning curve. By so doing the teacher dictates what the learner requires and when they require it especially so in terms of information or facts. This may be a near impossible task for a computer to carry out however complex the computer program may be.
Learning also involves response and feedback. Sometimes the learner’s response is erratic and unplanned and can only be well interpreted by a human. To effectively have a program up and running to decipher all the unplanned and erratic feedback would mean a complex and very expensive computer program.
The argument so far advanced covers the interaction aspects in any learning mode. However with this goes other aspects such as the legal and social perspectives involved.
There may arise legal obstacles while trying to replace the teacher with the computer. Consider for instance a situation where based on the programmed information a leaner in the computer learning set up takes a decision that has legally bidding implications, who may stand in as the typical responded in the event of a legal tussle, would it be the computer?
A more typical scenario still is when we consider the infamous millennium bug that caused all non compliant systems to malfunction, firms that involved people and monetary assets went under due to a computer error. What would be the legal implications and who would take responsibility if the law were to take its cause, would it be the firm that runs the malfunctioned computer system or the firm that developed this system?
Such are the questions that make the over-reliance on computer in any process a legal risk. We are also aware of planes that have crushed in the event lives being lost because of malfunctioning on board systems, compensation procedures have become legal tussles involving the airline and the manufacturers on the other hand.
Redundancy has been shown as one of the results of computer employment and usage and this has continually been a social challenge. This though may not be entirely true because newer skills are required to man and operate the computers set ups and therefore.
When we assess the computer and its employment in various fields including learning from the economic, legal and social perspective we can understand that the computer has come in to improve process efficiency. However their employment may be limited to set ups that do not involve human to human processes such as in the learning environment.
While this is the case we can conclusively state that computers should not replace teachers as has been illustrated in throughout this study.
The complexity of this issues further increase when we consider the diverse languages the learners may be drawn from. Whereas a teacher can easily adjust to these variations and effectively communicate, the computer has limited or no capacity to capture this observation. “Translation processes may involve much and take a long time as compared to a teacher who is fluent in more than one language.”(Ingvarsson & Hanley 2010)
Needless to say the conventional school based approach of schooling where there is face to face interaction provides for opportunities for the teacher to be able to notice any student impairments such as auditory or visual and effectively adjust to impart the necessary knowledge. This seems a tall order when we are using a computer instead of a teacher to effect the learning process.
Educators are pointing to the fact that for computers to effectively replace the teacher in the usual conventional school based setup, then critical changes must be effected in the classroom and learning environment, a process which is likely to take a considerable amount of time before its actual realization (Newhouse 1999)