Preface: This article is not about online classes and/or technology in the classroom. We need technology and teachers; technology is a supplemental learning tool in the classroom.
There is a vast amount of discussion and debates surrounding the education technology movement. Education technology has changed the way we think, communicate, and share knowledge across the world. Learning opportunities and access to information are unparalleled to ten years ago. Technology changes rapidly in every field, and education is a special entity; it moves differently to meet the needs of students. Some believe we can replace teachers with computers.
Can we replace teachers with computers? As a forever teachers, my personal and immediate answer is no. We cannot replace an effective teacher with a computer. Teachers touch lives in ways that are immeasurable. Teachers make students laugh, encourage academic passion, mentor, and for some, they are a support system. Teachers are the eyes that keep many kids safe, the ears that listen to stories and the hand that holds when preschoolers learn to cross the street.
Many teachers had a positive impact on my life. However, there were two specific teachers who had critical impact. Dr. Lynn Dieter was the high honor’s English teacher at Maine East High School in 1991. She was known for her dedication, academic rigor, and the brilliant way she taught and engaged students with literary classics. She appeared threatening, and everyone who had her knew they were going to work. Dr. Dieter immediately noticed my writing style. She pulled me out of mainstream English and placed me in her high honor’s writing course. I was challenged to write better than I ever wrote. She told me that writing was my gift. It has been over 20 years since I sat in her class, and today we had our first conversation as adults. She is starting a book club with her former students in the near future. We will be discussing Chaucer, and I am greatly looking forward to reading The Canterbury Tales once again.
The next most impressionable teacher I had was Dr. Bernadette Herman, a professor I met while obtaining my M.Ed. in 2005. Like Dr. Dieter, students were well aware that they were expected to show up, engage and complete their work. Since her course was a graduate level course, the context, environment and the needs of her students were different. However, the relationships we formed had just as much meaning and hold true today. Dr. Herman taught me how to look at myself as a teacher, to see through a different lens, and different ways to step outside of my comfort zone. She taught me applicable strategies to use for the classroom, and within my own personal life. I still maintain a very special relationship with her, and we are able to share our journeys together in a personal and professional context. She is the person I talk with each week for many different reasons. Dr. Herman is my mentor, teacher, colleague and most cherished friend.
As a former teacher myself, I was given the gift to watch many former students grow into successful adults. To this day, I still maintain friendships with many, and it is an honor to be part of their lives.
These are only two examples of how teachers played a critical role in the most formative years of my life as a student. There is no question in my mind; we need teachers for a variety of reasons in our lives, and these include challenges and celebrations.
Computers are essential for 21st-century skills, and they should play a great role in the classroom, as a trusted tool or resource. Technology is constantly changing our world; it opens doors to a global sociey, and provides various learning tools to those who lacked However, technology in the classroom should be an addition, not a replacement for teachers. How can a computer replace such amazing relationships that grow and affect lives during the most formative years?
The simple answer is…they cannot.