Why Computers Cannot Replace Teachers

Student Writing in Her Notebook

linkedin webinarWritten by: Robyn Shulman

Preface: This article is not about online classes and/or technology in the classroom. We need technology and teachers together, as one complements the other.

There has been a great amount of discussion and debate surrounding the technology movement in education. Technology in education has changed the way we think, communicate, and share knowledge in the world. Opportunities to learn have opened doors to people all around the world. The changes are moving fast in education, and some have stated we can even replace teachers with computers.

Can we really replace teachers with computers? My personal and immediate answer is no. We cannot replace an effective teacher with a computer. Teachers are people who touch lives in ways that are immeasurable. Teachers make students laugh, encourage academic passion, mentor, and for some, they are the support and attention children do not receive at home. 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 2 specific teachers in my life who had the greatest impact. Dr. Lynn Dieter was the high honor’s English teacher at Maine East High School in 1991. She was well known for her dedication, academic rigor, and the brilliant way she taught and engaged students with literary classics. She was considered a toughie, 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 spoke. She will be starting a book club with her former students in the near future. We will be discussing Chaucer and I am greatly looking forward to 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, the environment and the needs of the students were different than those in high school. However, the relationships that formed had just as much meaning. Dr. Herman taught me how to look at myself as a teacher, to see through a different lens, and she showed me how 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, as we are able to share our journeys together in a personal and professional context. She is the person I talk with today for so many different reasons. Dr. Herman is my mentor, teacher, colleague and most cherished friend.

As a former teacher myself, I have been given the gift to watch many of my own former students grow into successful adults. To this day, I still maintain friendships with many of them and it is an honor to be part of their lives.

These are only 2 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 life’s challenges and celebrations.

Computers are essential for 21st century skills, and they should play a great role in the classroom. They have changed the world around us, opened doors that were once closed, and provide various learning tools that never existed even 10 years ago. 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.


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One thought on “Why Computers Cannot Replace Teachers

  1. Melody Malpas

    To say I agree with you is an understatement!!!! I have had the displeasure of being a “Facilitator” in an online learning classroom for last semester. The online learning organization sells these classes as a way to disseminate a variety of topics not available on campus, while using only one teacher unit to teach 30 – 40 students different topics. Sounds great, right?? WRONG. It was the most miserable semester of my teaching career. First, online learning is NOT made for those with most types of learning disabilities. Second, it is only as good as the content that is written and the support behind the content. In my case, there were multiple gaps in the curriculum and little ways to fix it for the students currently in the classes. Even the students complained that there were “not learning enough” because often the teachers hired to read, grade and provide feedback for the online students take this job on as a second job and treat it as such. As I pursue my Master’s in Curriculum Development, I plan write a thesis on the “Inappropriate Outsourcing of Education” and this will be the topic.

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