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How technology is transforming teaching

21/01/2015 Joanna
Technology has been transforming traditional jobs around the world in recent years - and teaching is no exception.

The profession is currently adapting to a number of major technological trends, including the digitisation of learning, which involves using innovations such as electronic blackboards, and virtual teaching, in which the educator does not need to be in the same location as the learner.

This raises some important questions. Do the benefits of technology in education outweigh the drawbacks? And will technology eventually undermine teaching jobs, as it has other areas of the economy?

Digitisation and virtual learning

While the days of the exercise book are not over yet, devices such as tablets are likely to become more and more common in years to come.

A recent survey by education charity Tablets for Schools found that tablets are now used by nearly 70 per cent of primary and secondary schools in the UK.

In addition, 40 per cent of institutions that do not use the devices are planning to introduce them, meaning their number is set to increase from about 430,000 to almost 900,000 by 2016.

This form of technology has a number of distinct advantages over traditional methods of teaching. It can offer a better way of engaging pupils than textbooks, for instance, as youngsters are more likely to enjoy using interactive games.

Learning can also become more personalised using this form of technology. For example, some programmes can adapt their difficulty according to the user's aptitude in a subject.

Another big benefit of technology is that it enables teachers to monitor their pupils' progress more closely, as computerised data is used to build up an accurate, continuously-updated record of an individual's performance.

This can also make teachers' lives easier, freeing up time that would have been spent on marking work and running through drills of words and numbers.

Of course, there are downsides to the popularity of technology. As more youngsters use online programmes, the risks of cyberbullying rise, and the government has recently invested money and resources to help teachers tackle this harmful behaviour.

In addition, it is not always clear whether the technology provides an unwelcome distraction for pupils. The Tablets for Schools research did not find evidence of a definitive connection between tablet computers and improved results, despite many teachers testifying to their effectiveness. 

Virtual learning has also become more common in recent years. Massive Open Online Courses could have a profound impact on academia, dramatically cutting the costs of studying courses and opening up access to universities for the disadvantaged and those in poorer countries.

While virtual learning's impact on primary and secondary schools may be less significant, it could lead to some changes. Resources can be made available to pupils who miss lessons and it can also help students with homework, for example.

Will technology undermine teaching jobs?

While technology may be set to make teachers' lives easier, it is not predicted to have the negative impact on jobs that is being felt in other areas of the economy.

Many traditional jobs have been rendered obsolete by the advance of technology as mechanisation and IT remove the need for human workers, leading to a 'hollowing out' of the employment market.

Teaching, however, is unlikely to fall victim to this trend anytime soon. Indeed, a recent report by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, entitled Careers of the Future, predicted the role of secondary school teacher would be one of the best prospects for the next generation of jobseekers.

The number of people in this role is set to grow significantly in years to come, increasing by 42,000 between 2012 and 2022 - and starting salaries remain considerably higher than the UK average.

Although learning will become easier thanks to technology, pupils will continue to need teachers for a range of reasons - and as other traditional careers decline, the popularity of the profession could well be set to rise significantly.

Posted by Theo FouldsADNFCR-2164-ID-801771226-ADNFCR
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