As I discuss the future of education with other educators, especially regarding how technology is changing it, we almost always end up at the same question: if this works, will it put us out of a job? But there are a few skills that might be irreplaceable by technology, and we'd be wise to develop them now.
Skill #1: CurationA quick internet search of "learn html" reveals a big problem in the Age of Information, or should we call it the Age of Information Overload? "Learn HTML in 6 Hours" says one video, "Learn HTML in 12 Minutes" says another. The options are endless, and I don't know where I would start.
|Museum curators know how to pick and position artifacts for maximum experience.|
However, as I think about it, this might not be irreplaceable. Plenty of services are already attempting to curate experiences for users through fancy algorithms. For example, when I listen to Ratatat and Fatboy Slim on Spotify, it starts making predictions on other groups I might also like. Perhaps a classroom of the future will start predicting what I should learn next based on what I've done so far. That actually sounds pretty awesome.
Then again, I had never heard anything like Ratatat until my brother suggested it to me. There will always be a place for humans, fewer humans, probably, but humans nonetheless.
Skill #2: PurposeLet's say I did discover the exact set of videos that would perfectly match my abilities, but then what? I recognize that HTML is a skill I would do well to have, but I don't really have anything to apply it to at the moment.
Skill #3: FeedbackLet's say some computerized educational service provides me with fantastic educational content and I also happen to have a project I want to work on as I learn. That's great if everything goes perfectly, but what happens when I run into problems? How do I know if I'm doing it right? or what I could do better?
This is probably the most crucial skill of a teacher in the future. I'm fairly confident that computers will never be able to provide the kind of personalized feedback that a caring teacher can. A teacher can recognize when a student is struggling, can identify where he went wrong, can offer the exact hint or solution or encouragement that helps him keep going.
There are programs out there that attempt to grade and provide feedback. My district uses an essay-grading service that does a pretty good job. Regarding my current class, there are sites out there that can read your HTML/CSS syntax and point out errors. Microsoft Word has been red- and green-underlining things for ages. But anyone who has used any of these services know that they are far from perfect. Students have figured out that the trick to getting a high score on the automated essay grading system is to simply make the essay longer. HTML/CSS verifiers will notoriously point out errors that aren't errors at all because computers simply have a hard time with context. Microsoft Word will insultingly tell you that your own name is spelled wrong, and that you're not allowed to use the same word twice in a row.
Skill #4: MotivationMost things that are worth learning will likely be hard to learn. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes a good deal of failure. As I create my website, it'll occur to me how much more work it'll take to get to what I want to see. I'll come up with excuses to not work on it. I might decide that it wasn't a skill I needed anyway.
Often, with motivation, gamification comes up. Codecademy, for example, is a service that teaches coding skills and attempts to use streaks ("Do some code today to extend your streak to 11 days!") and badges to keep you going. It may work for some, but not many. Like the essay grading software I mentioned earlier, there are too many ways to cheat automated systems. Additionally, gamification is still such a new, untested idea with endless examples of doing it wrong. Humans will be needed for a long time before computers can replicate the motivation they can offer.