Emerging role of school teachers in the age of AI driven technologies like Alexa

By Rashi Hilbert, Primary Coordinator (Mathematics and Science), JML School, Mumbai

“Alexa or other AI driven tech is information, while a teacher is transformation.”

We live in the age of Alexa and other AI-driven technologies. Alexa is a virtual assistant developed by Amazon. It is an AI-powered voice-controlled system that can perform various tasks and answer questions by using natural language processing. Alexa can be found in Amazon’s smart devices, such as the Amazon Echo speakers, and it can also be integrated into other third-party devices, making it widely accessible for home automation, entertainment, information retrieval, and more. Users can interact with Alexa through voice commands or questions, and it responds with relevant information or executes the requested actions.

This time and again brings up the debate of Teacher versus AI tech

Educators don’t need to worry about artificial intelligence taking over their jobs. While AI is becoming a valuable tool for educational professionals, there are many ways computers just can’t replace the human touch in the classroom.

Popular media is full of stories about technology’s potential to replace human workers, including teachers – but the truth is that there is more to teaching than simple knowledge transfer.

Machines can’t replace the human touch (emotional quotient) that is necessary in our schools that can only be delivered by high-quality educators.

Instead of feeling scared of AI, teachers and educational professionals can look at it as a powerful tool for delivering better, more personalized learning experiences and lifting some of the enormous administrative burden currently placed on educators’ shoulders.

With Alexa and other AI-driven technologies becoming more prevalent in homes and educational settings, the role of a teacher is not replaced but is evolved to embrace this technology as a valuable educational tool.

Teachers will now play a crucial role in guiding students on how to use these tools responsibly and critically evaluate the information provided by these tools.

Teachers can leverage these technologies as educational aids, but their role remains as a mentor to help students navigate the digital world effectively and safely.

Here are some potential roles and benefits for teachers with Alexa

  • Facilitator: Teachers can use Alexa to enhance classroom activities, act as a facilitator, and encourage student engagement through interactive and voice-controlled learning experiences.
  • Information Resource: Alexa can provide instant access to a vast amount of information. Teachers can use it as a supplementary resource to answer questions, find relevant facts, or clarify concepts during class discussions.
  • Personalized Learning: By integrating Alexa into the classroom, teachers can provide personalized learning experiences tailored to individual students’ needs and interests.
  • Task Automation: Alexa can assist with routine tasks, such as setting timers, reminders, or managing schedules, allowing teachers to focus more on teaching and connecting with students.
  • Language Learning: Voice-activated assistants like Alexa can help with language learning by practicing pronunciation, vocabulary, and language comprehension exercises.
  • Voice Interface Skills: Teachers can encourage students to develop voice interface skills by creating their own Alexa Skills, fostering creativity and problem-solving abilities.
  • Home-School Connection: Alexa can facilitate communication between teachers and parents by sharing important updates, assignments, or classroom announcements through connected devices.
  • Taking over repetitive, structured administrative tasks like grading: With natural language processing, AI tools will even be able to read free-form text responses (like short answers on tests or longer essays).
  • Tracking student progression: With machine learning tools, teachers can use individual students’ grades to create profiles to track progression and identify potential development areas.
  • Making education more accessible: Artificial intelligence tools can help make global classrooms available to everyone, including those who speak different languages, have visual or hearing impairments, or need to interact with resources at their own pace.

However, it’s crucial for teachers to maintain a balance between incorporating technology like Alexa and traditional teaching methods. Technology should complement and enhance education while not replacing essential aspects of human interaction and teaching. Additionally, ensuring privacy and data protection is essential when using voice-activated assistants in educational settings. Teachers should always prioritize the safety and well-being of their students while using such technologies.

While Alexa and other voice-activated assistants offer numerous benefits in terms of quick access to information and automation, teachers still provide unique value and advantages that cannot be replaced by technology.

Teachers play a crucial role in fostering essential human skills that AI cannot replace, such as creativity, empathy, and social interactions. A teachers primary role remains in providing personalized learning experiences.

What do teachers provide?

  • Human Connection: Teachers build meaningful relationships with their students, providing emotional support, mentorship, and a sense of belonging that technology cannot replicate.
  • Personalized Instruction: Teachers can tailor their teaching approaches to cater to individual learning styles, strengths, and challenges, creating a more effective and personalized learning experience for each student.
  • Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving: Teachers encourage critical thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving skills by engaging students in discussions, debates, and interactive activities that foster deeper learning.
  • Adaptability: Teachers can adapt their teaching methods on the spot based on students’ reactions and feedback, ensuring the learning process remains dynamic and responsive to student needs.
  • Social and Emotional Learning: Teachers play a vital role in nurturing social and emotional development, helping students build empathy, resilience, and emotional intelligence.
  • Motivation and Encouragement: Teachers inspire and motivate students to discover their interests, pursue their passions, and reach their full potential, providing encouragement and guidance along the way.
  • Contextual Understanding: Teachers possess contextual knowledge and expertise in their subject areas, allowing them to provide a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the material.
  • Creativity and Innovation: Teachers can design innovative and interactive lessons, incorporating various teaching strategies, multimedia resources, and hands-on activities to keep students engaged and excited about learning.
  • Ethical and Moral Guidance: Teachers can help students navigate complex ethical dilemmas, providing valuable insights and perspectives on moral issues that technology may not be equipped to address.
  • Real-time Feedback: Teachers can offer immediate and constructive feedback, supporting students’ learning progress and helping them make improvements as they learn.

AI in education has come a long way, but I would argue that technology won’t be replacing teachers anytime soon.

As machine learning and AI continue to advance, human interaction will become even more important. Only teachers can truly understand the nuances of what is happening in their students’ minds in the classrooms.

Motivating students to learn, practice, and grow is a skill that is currently beyond the scope of artificial intelligence. High-quality human teachers have a wide range of motivational tactics they can use to give students a jump start and keep them motivated throughout the school year. Even young students realize quickly that penalties and rewards delivered by computers aren’t the same as the ones they experience from a teacher, alongside their peers.

Even though most experts believe the critical presence of teachers is irreplaceable, there will be many changes to teachers’ jobs and to educational best practices. Artificial intelligence can perform repetitive tasks, inform the educational process by tracking student progress, and improve the overall experience of teachers and students in schools and training institutions all over the world.

AI is becoming a valuable aid in teaching and is transforming classrooms – so the sooner teachers can get used to working alongside AI, the better.

In summary, while technology like Alexa can be a valuable tool in the educational landscape, teachers bring human touch, emotional intelligence, adaptability, critical thinking, problem solving, moral and ethical guidance and expertise that are essential for a well-rounded and effective learning experience. The combination of skilled educators and supportive technology can create a powerful and transformative educational environment.

This article appeared in Oped Moped online portal on 11 August 2023

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