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Teachers never fear - Microsoft assures tech won’t replace you... yet

17 Nov 2016

There has been many a science fiction film that predicts an outlandish future where everything is run by robots and artificial intelligence.

These films have been lightly enjoyed but normally dismissed as impossible. Well take a seat and strap yourself in, because that impossible outlandish future is the here and now – to an extent.

At the Bett Asia 2016 conference held in Kuala Lumpur this week, transforming learning for the digital era has been the main focal point. There is no doubt that digitisation is bringing wide and sweeping changes, but does that mean the teacher’s role is up?

In his keynote presentation, Microsoft vice president for Worldwide Education, Anthony Salcito spoke about just how the world and children’s’ needs are changing, and why teachers need to embrace this transformation.

His main point, and one that he liked to quote, was that with the influx of amazing innovations in the modern classroom, “Your students are learning without you”, stressing the need for teachers to take a step back and let the technology do its job.

Given my mother is a teacher and it sounded like her job was at threat (you certainly couldn’t call her digitally native, as up until last year she did think that data in the cloud was literally above our heads), I decided to pursue the matter further in the Q&A session, asking Salcito if all this new technology would make teachers redundant.

“I’m not actually arguing that students are learning without an educator,” Salcito says. “The role of the educator is actually more crucial than ever. We need more innovative teachers to ensure our kids are educated for the digital era.”

Salcito argues that the past 200 years has seen a rigid education platform based on supplied content. The digital era multiplies those resources and sheer potential by a billion (as a figure of speech).

“The teacher’s role has shifted from simple dissemination to really encouraging and inspiring students to embrace the potential,” Salcito says. “It requires new technology elements and a different role for educators, which is far richer in many ways. The role today is far more dynamic, far more diverse. So it creates a much more nuanced way of teaching that requires great teacher leaders.”

Salcito affirms that data is now critical, with educators being able to use it to understand where their students are learning and then inspire them by providing tools unique to their requirements.

“This means as an educator, I have a much different dynamic because I don’t have to teach the same way to 40 kids, I can actually nuance my instruction and resources that I provide to the students,” Salcitos says. “This makes teaching a far more intense role. When people say teachers aren’t going to be important with the influx of technology, I strongly disagree as I see the direct opposite.”

So there you have it teachers, your jobs are safe – provided you embrace change of course.

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