The Teaching Machines
The tentacles of technology are attempting to wheedle their way into professions whose success has largely been attributed to their close and personal contact with the public domain. Instead of the local corner shop, we have dispensers. There are machines where there used to be people and now, believe it or not, we are replacing teachers with computers.
So, what is the teacher’s role in the classroom? Is it solely the transmission of knowledge from one source to another? Is the teacher becoming another obsolete human being? There are some who obviously think so and they are building schools and designing English language learning courses which require only a minimal amount of human intrusion. The students, unfortunate enough to have been lulled into such an institution, are then expected to sit at a workstation and supposedly absorb the information they are viewing. If they have a query there is no one to answer it, at least not in the classroom anyway. If you imagine a learning environment in which you are not allowed to ask any questions, you will find it is a complete contradiction of thought because learning to question is also part of the collective whole we call education.
There are of course some wonderful things to be done with computer technology and the last few years have seen a great surge of innovative ideas in the world of teaching. Verbling is a perfect example of this, combining all the positive elements of technology to reach all corners of the globe without losing the human touch. Many schools have managed to set up links with other schools enabling them to interact and share ideas with other pupils in other countries. There certainly is no better meaningful practice than that. Some amazing programmes, such as Verbling have been designed, which aid students and make the whole learning process that much more varied and enjoyable. The Internet is information, so of course it is good and there are countless benefits that come with the development of technology, but it should serve us and not the contrary.
As a teacher myself I have always found the spontaneity and the autonomous interest of my students, which I endeavour to keep alight, the main ingredients for a healthy and productive lesson. When I am a student, I like to regard my teacher as a mentor from whom I am allowed to extract information and interact with on a personal level. You will never find me in a purely virtual, soulless classroom. I want to know the names of my students´ friends and family, get to know them and find out what they did last Saturday. I want to talk and chat and do all those kinds of things that humans are supposed to do.