NO TECHNOLOGY CAN REPLACE A TEACHER

Many things are happening simultaneously. Standard of living is going up. There is mood of enhancement as well as disenchantment. There is progress and there is disillusion. In some sectors there is an increase in job opportunities, while in some sectors job opportunities are dwindling very fast. There is economic growth as well as inequity. There is material progress, and there is moral decadence. The world has always been like that. Only the changes that are taking place now are much faster. As Jacques Delors points out, educational policies can help to create a better world. And for doing this, it has to overcome tensions of various kinds. There are tensions between the global and the local. There are tensions between the universal and the individual; one cannot ignore the promises of globalization, nor its risks, particularly the risk of dissolving the unique character of individual human beings. Another tension is between tradition and modernity; how can autonomy be acquired in complementarity with the free development of others. We need to understand the  tension between long-term and short-term considerations in a world where an over-abundance of transient information and emotions continually keep the spotlight on immediate problems. There are concerns of competition vis-à-vis equality of opportunity.  There is mounting tension between the extraordinary expansion of knowledge and human capacity to assimilate it.  There is tension between the spiritual and the material.  

One of the observations is that academic qualification alone is not the true measure of one’s suitability for a job. Some think that there is no correlation between achievement and professional qualifications. The prime suspect is the examination system. “At best, exams capture a student’s ability to provide a snapshot of a field in motion. But photography is a medium better suited for the dead or the immortal than for ongoing inquiry, where a premium is placed on the prospect that many of our future beliefs will be substantially different from our present ones,” writes Steve Fuller.

 There is another general observation that says that there is no need for all to become innovators, nor are all capable of becoming innovators. Innovation is a difficult and expensive process, not meant for everybody; many of us like to follow, rather than take the lead. Herd instinct comes naturally to us. By observing others we can choose the best idea without going through the difficult process of innovation. Good copiers are instinctively good observers. There is no need for everyone to know everything. Few things should remain hidden from the purview of the majority. Our social structure and learning mechanism have sculpted us to become shrewd and intelligent at copying, but, perhaps, less adept at innovation and creativity. The paradox is we want to be both, innovators as well as copiers. We want to recreate ideas, as well as make efforts to create a variety in things already known.

The assessment system usually tries to find out if one knows or doesn’t know. This has prompted the development of technology-based assessment tools with the support of experts in diverse areas such as cognitive and developmental psychology, educational technology, neuroscience, and education policy. The design of the tools takes into account the three legs of assessment: cognition (how students develop and represent knowledge), observation (tasks or situations that allow one to observe students’ performance), and interpretation (method for making sense of the data). It is time to make a move to change the assessment approach in the education system. There is a need to move cautiously, as there are logistic and funding challenges.

One of the observations is that creative scientists are different from creative artists. Scientific creativity requires much more formal training than artistic creativity. “Indeed, some studies have found a curvilinear inverted-U relation between artistic creativity and formal education levels so that those with higher degrees are at a relative disadvantage,” writes Dean Simonton. Simonton believes, as you lengthen the required training, you narrow the base of expertise.

Another observation is that large proportion of engineers go into professions that are not based on science and technology. Engineering- based organisations need to create incentives for engineers so as not to lose potential employees to other sectors. This is not to suggest that engineers don’t contribute to the economy when they are not working directly in engineering. Engineers are increasingly working on cross-functional and globally distributed teams. To attract and retain the really talented include: give interesting and hard problems, give freedom and space to solve the problems, protect them from bureaucracy, and make provision for them to share the outcome, including profits.

We need to reinvent the meaning of a library space. It is a space for discovery and enjoyment. Plan a space that encourages students to gather information, not just from books and technology, but also from listening to other people’s stories and points of view. The idea is to give them an insight into different life paths. Library is not what objects it holds, but rather how those objects are used. Libraries hold far more than just books, CDs, DVDs, magazines, newspapers, maps, artwork, electronic databases, computers, and printers. They also offer things we’re less quick to identify as objects: space, relationships, trust, understanding, and opportunities. We must recognize that libraries speak to the whole person, not just the intellect.

No technology can replace a human interaction. Teachers will always be required; expectations from them will change. Like in earlier times, teachers will have to ‘own’ their profession and their students.

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