*Disclaimer: the mother in this article requested to keep her identity anonymous for the time being. Additional details are forthcoming.
This fall, parents in a California school district discovered at a sixth grade open house that their child would no longer have a teacher.
Instead, the district had invested in an “exciting new way of learning” – a “personalized learning program” called Summit, designed by Facebook.
After listening to a presentation about the system that parents had received no prior information about (including no information about the programs data-sharing agreement, which gives Summit full authority to sell student information to third parties), they were ushered into a classroom where they told to log onto the software program.
When it became clear that no teacher was to be found, one mom went searching for an explanation.
“I went out into the hallway and found a really young looking woman. She called herself the classroom facilitator, and told us that ‘teacher’ was just an old term.”
The mom’s jaw hit the floor.
Recently, an article has been circulating the web claiming that “inspirational robots” will begin replacing teachers in the next ten years.
Some have laughed it off, others have called it fear mongering.
One woman went so far as to call it “catastrophizing conspiracy horseshit.”
To these people I say: dismiss this at your own risk.
Those following education policy closely know that the only outrageous part of the headline is the use of the word “inspirational.”
While they may not look like this:
robots – in the form of data-mining software programs that operate under the Orwellian term “personalized learning” – are already invading our classrooms at lightning speed.
And if you think that what happened in California isn’t about to happen nationwide, check out this document from the high-profile, well-funded Knowledgeworks Foundation, which offers a menu of career opportunities for displaced teachers.
Proponents (who stand to make a boatload off the new system) claim that machine learning is an “inevitable” wave of the future; that it will “free up” teachers to do more “projects” with kids.
But that’s hogwash.
Read their own documents, and you’ll see that they are planning to turn live, face-to-face teaching into a “premium service.”
A premium service.
Meaning that they know face-to-face instruction is a better way to learn, and they have no intention of having their own children learn from machines.
In that sense, maybe the idea of robots teaching children is “catastrophizing conspiracy horseshit,” if – and only if – you’re among the lucky few.