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Technology can't replace teachers

THE fashion for computers in schools fits a long-term desire to replace teachers with technology. I recall a child's primer of the 1820s in my old college library aimed at families who could not afford a governess. It was based on questions and answers. One was beautiful:

Q: How old is the world?

A: 4,000 years.

Post-war it was schools radio. A huge radio was placed in the assembly hall and all the children sat in front.

At one time all further education colleges in the Inner London Education Authority were linked to a studio so one lecturer could teach the whole of London. Some thought they could replace lecturers with video-tape machines.

Other examples include "programmed learning: the lerner would continue through the material then self-test, repeating it if heshe failed.

And language laboratories (mostly defunct): expected the learner to listen to a tape and reply. Eddie Izzard has a great sketch on these.

In FE colleges, classroom time has been slashed in favour of computer "resource-based" (or, as the staff call it "redundancy-based") learning.

But computers, like all the previous examples, are only tools, not replacements, for teachers. The Web is great but students need the guidance.

Watch the intentions of those who push technology, it is not always in the best interest of teachers and learners.

Dave Nicholson

21 Albert St



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