The Robot Teachers

Stephen Downes, Half an Hour, Sept 03, 2012
Commentary by Stephen Downes

This is an extra-long newsletter today, beginning with an article I wrote yesterday and finishing with some Labour Day themes. The article takes a resent post by Tony Bates as a starting point, in which he expresses his fear that "computers can replace teachers in higher education" and that "a number of CEOs from other companies all thought this was the right way to go." I take up this argument, and find good grounds to agree with his fears. As is lavishly documented in the article and today's newsletter (hence the length) the push toward online learning is increasingly associated with an ongoing campaign to commercialize and privatize the public education system. In my column I offer good reasons why we would not want to do this, and so am in agreement with Bates on this point. But I don't think that his response - entrench the existing system - is the answer. The existing system is designed to support corporate interests and the influence of the elite. We need to restructure the system, professionalizing teachers and instructors, while at the same time building a public learning infrastructure network.

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