Andrew Pass is the founder of A Pass Educational Group, LLC. With 2,400 associates, A Pass works with organizations to develop content. A Pass designs courses, writes assessment questions, correlates instruction to assets, has a world language department, and more. The company works with all levels, from pre-kindergarten to corporate. Under Mr. Pass’s leadership, A Pass Educational Group, LLC has grown into a multi-million-dollar business.
Web 4.0, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence have radically transformed parts of our world. Many professionals are nervous as to what this means for future employment opportunities. This includes hundreds of thousands of teachers. Many teachers worry that if students can easily access high quality individualized instruction via technology the teachers’ own roles will become significantly limited. As technology advances, this worry may become more profound. However, eliminating the teacher’s role would be detrimental to society. In fact, teachers have never had a more important role to play than they have today. Within their classrooms and even online virtual courses, teachers must break through the technological worlds all people occupy and build the world of humanity – an authentic world of humanity.
Like all technologies, learning technology will continue to advance. Educational technology will know many things about each student such as how they ingest information and how they think about it. Using this knowledge, this technology will have the ability to present content in just the right way for each individual student. This technology will know the ideal media in which to present content and the best activities that students should complete to most effectively master it. In essence, every student will have his own personal learning program.
While students will greatly benefit from enhanced educational technology that provides learning experiences that best meet learning needs it is important to remember what is behind this technology – zeros and ones. Zeros and ones are the building blocks of computer code. They do not provide authenticity. Computer technology does not have the empathy and humanity that people have, so while there are great aspects of the highest quality educational technology it also has weaknesses.
No human teacher, working with twenty-five or thirty students at a time, could ever develop personalized learning paths for each student on a continual basis. This is not a criticism of teachers. Rather, it is an acceptance of reality. Teachers could not possibly develop many different lesson plans for every day of the school year, even if this was the only thing that they had to do. But of course, it would never be their only responsibility.
As technology further develops, all teachers will need to recognize that they are not a ‘sage on the stage.” The teacher’s job will not be to transmit information to students. Nor will they even need to be the knowledge authority in the classroom. Rather, the teacher will represent a far more experienced member of the learning community, learning and interacting with the students and encouraging cognitive and emotional growth.
Many years ago, as a young teacher, I recognized the best teachers in the schools within which I worked. I made it a habit of asking them what made them such great teachers. Amazingly, every one of them had the same answer, “I love my students.” The best teachers listen to their students, not because they have to but because they want to. The best teachers engage in informal conversation with their students because they find it fulfilling. Students in the best teachers’ classroom know that they matter as people, not because the teacher says “you matter” but because the teacher shows, you matter.
In her workspace, the classroom, the teacher will demonstrate that the classroom is first and foremost a community of people. Every single person, every single student, is a unique individual who is the person they are because of their unique biological nature and set of experiences, or stories. The teacher remembers that the person who brings about world peace will have a teacher. The person who invents the cure for blindness will have a teacher. Every person who makes this world a better place will have a teacher. People do these great things not because of the information that teachers promote but because of the habits of heart that teachers stimulate.
Imagine a classroom built upon authenticity. All students would know that they matter to at least one person, the teacher. This classroom will quickly become a warmer, safer environment in which students feel comfortable taking risks, an important component of an authentic learning process. An environment of caring will also spread amongst the students. The classroom culture will be infused with a spirit of respect amongst all. This respect, authenticity, and safety will lead to the greatest opportunity for high quality academic success when combined with educational technology that enables individualized instruction.
In the year 2000, I taught a pre-service teacher education course at a major university. One day I invited a state department of education official to speak to my students. She explained that people should not enter teaching because they love working with students. They should enter teaching to transmit knowledge to students. In 2000, this might have been true. As technology advances we will not need teachers to transmit knowledge. Technology will do that well. We need teachers to love students, honor students, and provide a trusting and authentic learning environment. Technology will never do this.