Author: Ian Wilson – Senior Lecturer in Education, York St John University  

The future is unknown but, as Abraham Lincoln stated – “’The Best way to predict the future is to create it’? As we look to the future from a point within the current situation where the end is hopefully in sight, I have been thinking about whether we are preparing learners for the future and whether, our roles as educators will still be needed or whether the classrooms of higher education will be populated by teaching bots, androids and artificial intelligence. 

For too long the focus of education has been firmly rooted in the transference of knowledge. We transmit this knowledge to the learners placing ourselves in the position of knowledgeable experts at the front of the class, and then expect learners to regurgitate the facts back to us in order to achieve marks and classifications. Although there are pockets of practice which have or will be moving away from this, it does remain the ‘go to’ approach for education. But we as educators have some rivals for this post of knowledge transference. Technology can do this more effectively than any human. It can stay up to date with the knowledge and even provide instant feedback and targets for improvements. We, as humans, cannot compete with the robots on the knowledge front but that does not mean we are redundant? Far from it, we are here to teach and develop something much more important than knowledge – skills. 

In Joseph Aoun’s book, Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence he explores the role of educators in the future. Here we are not responsible for the transmission of knowledge, but the promotion of skills. Skills to engage and interact with knowledge to see whether it is true or false, skills to be critical and reflect so that we understand whether the knowledge is important and how it will be applicable in our own lives. Skills to problem solve, to collaborate and learn together, and skills which encourage and allow us to produce new products and knowledge. We are the creators of scenarios which allow learners to practice and develop their skills which prepare them not only for the workplace, but for life. 

Social media surrounds all of us now, being ever present within our lives and pockets. Without the focus on skills, we are not preparing learners to engage effectively with the information across the platforms of Twitter and Instagram. We are not preparing them for their future. We are not even preparing them for their present. Technology will continue to form an important and every growing presence in all that we do and as educators, it is important that we pause for a moment and ask ourselves a question. What will we be doing when artificial intelligence and robots have replaced us in the knowledge transference classrooms? If we want to take some advice from Abraham Lincoln, then now would be a good time to start creating the future by investing in skill promoting learning scenarios, leaving the knowledge transmission to the robots and allow us, as educators and humans to take our rightful place as promoters and teachers of those skills which every learner needs for their future. 


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