Will robots teach our children someday?

Perhaps it is only a matter of time before we have robot teachers. Or, maybe we will have computers that test and quiz students in mini virtual environments, such as in the Vulcan school envisioned in Star Trek.

Technology is already an important part of educating our children. From classroom iPads to learning management systems, technology is now a critical part of K-12 schooling.

While we’re still not at the point of robot teachers or virtual learning environments, technology is rapidly changing education.

Classroom Technology Must Do More Than Be a Content Delivery System

Yet, many educators feel that the current implementation of classroom technology is just scratching the surface. To use technology simply as another means of delivering content is to waste its true potential.

Using technology in the classroom has to be more than just delivering a textbook in an electronic format. Sure, these basic types of technology in the classroom can be useful. For one thing, electronic textbooks can be automatically updated, avoiding the expense of purchasing newly printed books year after year.

And even on a rudimentary level, the benefits of technology in the classroom still outweigh the disadvantages. Let’s face it – the world is now run by technology, and the earlier students can become proficient with it, the better prepared they will be for the future.

But the integration of Internet access with classroom learning is now “old school” in terms of educational advancement. What will be the next step?

The Next Phase of Classroom Education Will Be Personalization

“Personalization” is a technology buzzword that goes beyond education. It is in many respects the current “holy grail” of marketing, as companies look to specifically tailor their marketing messages to individual consumers in order to entice more sales.

In the online marketing world, personalization and automation may be somewhat simple and involve custom email marketing messages. For example, a company might send a special birthday email message with a discount that is triggered by the consumer’s birthdate.

Large companies like Amazon use personalization – based on a user’s past clicks and purchases – to display recommended items and product tie-ins.

Educators are now seeing the technological capabilities of personalization as an opportunity to reach students more effectively.

How Would Personalization Work in Education?

Personalization in education could work in a number of ways. For example, a computer program could track and monitor a student’s progress, delivering custom lessons based on their current level of understanding.

Such tools could also help alert teachers to areas in which children are struggling. The personalization tool could then help out by providing extra support and training in those areas.

Also, because people tend to learn in different ways, personalization could be used to deliver educational content in a form that is most accessible to a particular student.

For example, a student who learns more through visual materials might be given more video tutorials. Another student who is more kinesthetic might be taught through more active, physical methods of engagement.

Personalization can also help with assistive technology in the classroom, by providing tailored tools to students with disabilities, including learning disabilities, visual and hearing impairment, and physical limitations.

The Potential Problems with Personalization

While personalization has tremendous potential for education, it also has its pitfalls. Some of these challenges include:

1. Privacy Concerns

Personalization, whether used for education or marketing, has inherent privacy concerns. Through personalization, an entire educational and even psychological history of the student will be digitized and available for others to potentially view in the future (even with privacy laws).

2. Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

The student who doesn’t respond well to written instruction might be given more audio or video teachings. However, the problem with this type of personalization is that it reinforces the student’s discomfort with reading. Sometimes, students need to be encouraged to work with things they don’t feel comfortable with in order to gain mastery.

3. Lack of Social Engagement

Students who are on their own individual tracks due to personalization may be less likely to collaborate and learn with other students and peers. This can in effect put children in a “silo” where they won’t get the benefits of school socialization.

Robots Probably Won’t Teach Your Kids Anytime Soon

As classroom technology advances, we are first most likely to see efforts to bring in technologies that are already being successfully used commercially. Personalization is one technology innovation that will be soon introduced into classrooms, providing custom learning opportunities for children.

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