Robots could replace teachers but don’t expect to be inspired
Robots could replace teachers as the primary source of information in classrooms around the world, according to a leading academic.
Michael Osborne, associate professor of machine learning at the University of Oxford, warned that the increasing use of machines in the classroom will mean that teachers will be less important when transmitting knowledge.
“Technology allows superior delivery of information,” said Prof Osborne.
“It seems pointless to have a teacher or lecturer standing in front of a classroom statically delivering content that might be better absorbed through online videos, thereby leaving the teacher time to engage with students in a more interactive fashion.”
He said, however, that teaching remained a long way from being fully automated because scientists were yet to develop artificial intelligence that could provide the emotional or pastoral guidance offered in most schools.
“Simply put, teachers render themselves safe from automation in engaging deeply with students, rather than teaching like a machine,” said Prof Osborne.
“Machines still don’t have the same deep understanding of human society that teachers must rely on.
“In particular, the social intelligence required to monitor a classroom, or to inspire students struggling with a concept, is likely [to remain] beyond the scope of algorithms for at least 20 years.”
Apart from teachers having less prominence in the classroom, students would also have to take more control of their learning, he said.
Prof Osborne added: “Each student will have a device at their desk which will be delivering their content tailored to their interest and expertise, rather than everyone receiving the same material from the teacher in front of the class.”
Prof Osborne’s warning follows earlier research that he conducted with fellow Oxford academic Carl Benedikt Frey that concluded that those in highly creative jobs were less likely to be replaced in the next two decades.
The research, carried out for Nesta, the innovation charity, showed that 24 per cent of jobs in the UK were in creative industries — a higher percentage than in the US — and that nearly 90 per cent of workers in these industries were at little or no risk of being made redundant by technologies.