Will Teachers Be Replaced By Bots?

18 Sep

It is generally recognized that as technology goes into teachers can move, as the saying goes,"from a sage on the stage to a guide on both the side."

That shift has troubled teachers and educating advocates who fear educators who instruct, analyze and supply vital context is going to be diminished or co-opted outright by soulless, algorithm-driven technology. Normally, it's been easy to dismiss all those fears in favor of a to-be-determined technology/teacher venture.

But those replacing fears may be both worse than anticipated and nearer than expected.

Even though it's just making the rounds of academic journals today, fully four decades ago, in 2014, education technology pioneers were already designing and analyzing a teacher-bot.

More correctly, it was a "bot-teacher" which supposed some teaching responsibilities in a MOOC -- a large open online course. A review of a Single bot-teacher experimentation was recently released in the Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 2018 from Aras Bozkurt of Anadolu University in Turkey, Whitney Kilgore at the University of North Texas and also Matt Crosslin, from University of Texas, Arlington.

The group analyzed a bot-teacher called Botty that functioned on Twitter by looking for and responding to a course-specific hashtag and keywords. "When Botty discovered the hashtag, it would reply using a set of automated responses which were pre-crafted from the course facilitators. All these tweets took the form of class guidance as well as thought-provoking utterances designed to engage the student in discussion using the bot and together with other people," the investigators wrote.

Setting aside existential questions like whether lines of code could hunt, locate, utter, reply or participate talks, Botty, with no question, was developed to automate important pieces of instruction. And, according to the study, it did well. The report summary,"... discovered that using bot-teachers is very helpful in raising interaction within a learning community and can be used as an assistant throughout the teaching/learning procedure."

This finding is particularly interesting in light of this report's supplying which,"Teaching existence has three basic classes: facilitating discourse, direct instruction, and organization and design." And that, "it seems that Botty largely monopolized the facilitating discourse class of education attendance" by "playing the role of friendly and educated helper to the teacher that can respond to course-related individuals in live conversation as frequently as necessary."

What this really means is that these researchers feel that a bot may substitute a minimum of one of the 3 essential functions of teaching in a way that is much better than having an individual instructor.

Let's also be clear about exactly what they mean with a bot-teacher as a "tireless helper" 1 citation in the analysis (Bayne, 2015, who eased the MOOC that utilized Botty) states,"... new technological improvements would not replace teachers just because educators are problematic or lacking in talent, but would be utilized to augment and help teachers...".

Read that again - newest technologies wouldn't replace teachers just because they're bad but, presumably, for other reasons entirely.

A reason like a bot's ability to become"respectful and friendly" may do well. As the report handily points out,"It is always on, always there, and always prepared." Bots are also virtually certain to be cheaper than real teachers also. Since individuals who operate online education programs turn to less costly, less experienced teachers, a bot that could do a part of an instructor's job is likely to be an enticing option to getting any instructor at all.

That might not be an exaggeration. The writers of this Australasian Journal report cannot rule out that. They wrote,"... it can be said that the borders between the functions of teachers/facilitators along with also the bot-teacher have blurred, creating a hybridization in the functions of teachers/facilitators and also the bot-teacher."

It is important to remember that the MOOC in which Botty was deployed was focused especially on talking teaching and learning in electronic environments for example MOOCs. Along with the evaluation of Botty was completed, by design, through a "post-humanist" lens through which individual and computer are seen as equivalent, only an engagement from 1 thing into another without value assessment.

Nevertheless, that Botty was created, used and favorably assessed, must make clear that the anxieties of teachers being replaced by technologies are no more hyperventilated hyperbole.

It is easy to be scared about the future of teaching once an educational report on bot-teachers states,"... the concerning question of what character the human plays in a post-humanist bot-teacher situation gets less apparent the more technology improvements. If AI programmers can program responses, emotions, memory, and the intelligence of dead person thought leaders into future bots, the use of the human anatomy becomes increasingly more diminished."

By person, they mean teacher. And diminished, they mean immaterial.. 

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