Dr Annelies Raes (IMEC-KU Leuven research group ITEC, campus KULAK Kortrijk) studies how technology can support both students and teachers. ‘By 2030 the role of the teacher will have shifted to that of inspirer and coach thanks to new technology in education.’
‘human contact remains paramount.’
Will we be able to replace teachers by an army of robots? ‘No’, says Annelies Raes. ‘But new technologies will transform the classroom as well as the educational process. The idea that everyone has to be physically present will be a thing of the past in 2030. ‘But human contact will remain paramount.’ Technology will have to approximate this as best as possible.
Hybrid classrooms are already allowing students to take classes remotely using cameras. A great solution for students who are ill or are combining their education with a job. But are those students displaying the same level of attention? ‘A teacher can sense this in a classroom, but not through a screen. That is why we are researching how technology can recognise loss of attention.’
EdTech (educational technology) will be taking the educational system on a high-tech journey over the coming years. Chatbots that help students with their verbal French or English, a virtual reality environment where students learn to navigate traffic safely, a projection of human veins on the arm of a nurse in training that teaches her where to puncture the skin with a needle. Simulations allow a surgeon in training to operate on a lifelike puppet full of technology. The professional simulates complications remotely from a director's room.
‘I am not arguing that we should get rid of real experiences, but simulations allow students to gain authentic experiences within the context of their education.’
Technology can also be of help in preschool. ‘We are experimenting with adaptive games for math and language initiation, tailored to each preschooler. And with bluetooth technology registering the behaviour of preschoolers. Such smart observation will reduce administrative pressure for preschool teachers.
The teacher of the future makes nifty use of data. Physiological sensors measuring heart rate and sweat can inform us about the student’s involvement. And as a teacher uses video and online exercises to prepare for lessons (the so-called flipped classroom), log data can map pre-existing knowledge and any trouble the students may be having. Brain activity measurements can determine what areas in the brain are being activated.
‘chatbots can help students learn to speak French.’
The role of the teacher will shift to that of coach, monitor and inspirer. ‘Technology will support the teacher, but his/her role remains paramount. Computers can do a lot, but they cannot replace our flexible brain.’
‘As more tasks are automated in the future, education must prepare employees for non-routine tasks. This requires critical thought, reasoning and joint problem-solving. Teachers have an important role to play. They help build the competencies of the 21stcentury.’