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Will robots be teaching.

Automation will likely affect schools, too, but we don’t know yet how much

Probably ever since Henry Ford mastered the production line, there have been concerns about the loss of jobs to automation. Education has always seemed immune to such pressures, but that may not be the case anymore.

A recent report about jobs primarily filled by women from the research firm McKinsey Global Institute suggests that various tasks in school could be automated, perhaps more than educators have previously believed.

The estimates of lost man hours through automation range from one suggesting two thirds of the work of librarians could be lost to about 20 percent of the time for instructional coordinators. About 40 percent of the time spent by elementary and middle school teachers could be taken over with automation, the report notes.

The study suggests that artificial intelligence and robots, once a dreamy concept in futuristic novels, are functioning in other fields and are likely increasingly coming to schools too. It suggests that some teaching functions could be automated, along with time consuming tasks such as recording student progress and communicating with parents.

The report suggests that while the change will make education look very different, teachers might see the positive affects of it – saving time so that teachers can focus on more important work and providing effective teaching techniques and key, current information that can readily be assessed with teachers just overseeing the process.

“A hypothetical partially automated classroom may allow teachers to spend more time on engaging with students through technology to augment the classroom experience, personalizing lessons for different student groups based on interest level or skill level, improving student learning journeys, and increasing teacher productivity,” the report notes.

It says that could allow teachers to do more coaching and advising students based on their academic needs rather than trying to differentiate to a whole class. For instance, teachers could  rotate between small groups of students during class, as the students learn from digital content and interactive experiments.

Women who may more often use social and emotional skills in their jobs, might be better at suited to some of the work in this new type of school since it will require more use of those skills, the report notes.

McKinsey isn’t alone in forseeing what might seem like hard scenarios to grasp.

British researchers have predicted that robots could replace teachers in the classroom in the next decade. One expert says the robots under development now could read the responses and facial expressions of students and quickly adapt instruction and their method of communications to meet an individual student’s needs.

Grade levels will be eliminated under this scenario, and students will have a set of personalized applications that will guide them through their school years and training. Teachers would oversee the work of the automated teachers.

Other experts say automation will pay off most and create efficiencies in the “back end” of schools where bloated and slow systems too often costs school systems precious funding. It could improve school district finance, accounting and purchasing to create efficiencies – and even human resources.

It could handle other routine tasks such as scheduling students and recording data for those with special needs, both time-consuming and inefficient processes in many schools. Too much of school staff time is spent on schedules and rotations of students, areas where AI can be very effective.

But experts not that the moves will require an explanation of how they will save time and won’t overall eliminate many jobs – allowing educators to spend time on the tasks they prefer in the profession they chose – teaching

Written by Jim Paterson, Education World Contributing Writer

Jim Paterson is a writer, contributing to a variety of national publications, most recently specializing in education. During a break from writing for a period, he was the head of a school counseling department. (

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