I recall training teachers how to use Google docs several years ago and they went crazy over how easy it was to share and collaborate with peers and students. It was the first time in my almost 20 years of working with teachers to integrate technology throughout their teaching and student learning that they really didn't need me to "sell" the tool before training them how to use it. So when I became a school leader, I immediately asked my tech guy to build out a Google digital learning ecosystem for our school so we could tap the same power and ease of use I found when training other teachers to use it. Then, a year into our Google school experiment, while we were just about to implement a one-to-one Chromebook initiative, Google out did itself and introduced Google Classroom (see video above). Not only was this tool incredibly effective at tying many tools together under one umbrella, but it was so easy to configure and use that my teachers never even asked for training. The integration was immediate and impactful for both the teacher and the learner and ultimately led to so many other natural technology integrations such as automated assessment and data collection (think Flubaroo and Socratic), the adoption of open source learning resources and textbooks (think CK-12, Big History Project and more) and ultimately the sudden and unexpected realization that we had built a blended learning environment without even trying. Wow!
We've all seen the driverless google cars and I think we can agree that the removal of human error and the safety that comes with it is worth way more than the "fun factor" of driving your own vehicle but would we feel the same about teaching if a humanoid robot replaced the human teacher? The video above shows how close robotics engineers and artificial intelligence programmers are getting to creating the more perfect version of you. Freaky right? While we've all secretly wished for a clone every once in awhile to help us get our day's work done, would we really want one teaching our children to read, write, add and subtract while leading deep intellectual discussions? I mean, from a school leader's perspective they might be ideal: having the ability to program and reprogram them to teach the prescribed curriculum with fidelity while seamlessly collecting and analyzing student learning data to diagnose student learning needs and adapt instruction accordingly. Plus we would have the added bonus of no union contract constraints and the elimination of teacher room gossiping. Sound great right? But what about the social and emotional part of teaching and learning. How would that work in the very unhuman interaction between the student and their robotically human-like teacher? How would the robot handle the inevitable conflict between students, a sensitive student's reaction to not doing well on an assignment or being able to effectively create effective heterogeneous groups based on personality chemistry instead of test score? What would the phone call home to the parents when the student needs some motivation sound like? These are the aspects of the artificial intelligence of the humanoid teacher that would need to be learned from class to class and year to year, especially if they were placed in the classrooms utilizing our current educational model. Perhaps the integration of this educational technology would be as much of a flop of so many others throughout history. Or maybe not?