CAN ROBOTS REPLACE TEACHERS? AI AND YOU


Emeritus Professor Wendy Patton

Emeritus Professor Wendy Patton Chair of QCT Board

Welcome to 2018. I hope you’ve had a chance to relax, refresh and spend time with those you love during the Christmas and New Year break.

In an ever-changing professional landscape we are faced with many challenges, and I look forward to tackling some of them with you this year. One of the vexed topics currently dominating the literature in many professions is Artificial Intelligence (AI).

What will be the impact of AI on the work of teachers? Will robots with AI replace teachers? Some reports have suggested that 40-50% of jobs will be eliminated within the next 20-30 years – will teaching be one of them?

New research by both the McKinsey Global Institute and the OECD, which examines specific repetitive tasks rather than whole jobs, has challenged these drastic predictions. McKinsey’s work is based on a detailed analysis of 2,000-plus work activities for more than 800 occupations in the US and argues that focusing on whole occupations rather than single job-tasks might lead to an overestimation of job automatability.

The McKinsey report examines occupational sectors at high, medium and low risk of automation, concluding that the hardest activities to automate with currently available technologies are those that involve managing and developing people, and those that apply expertise to decision making, planning, or creative work. Further, the technical feasibility of automation is lowest in education (at least for now). While not underplaying the significant transformations being created by digital technology, the report acknowledges the essence of teaching is deep expertise and complex interactions with other people. The McKinsey authors assert that these two categories are the least automatable of the seven they identify.

Similarly, the OECD undertook an estimate of automatability of jobs for 21 OECD countries, also using a task-based approach. The report concludes that “on average across the 21 OECD countries, 9 % of jobs are automatable …The threat from technological advances thus seems much less pronounced compared to the occupation-based approach” (p. 8). Incorporating this perspective, a new report from the Foundation for Young Australians comments that by 2030, there will be a reduction in routine manual tasks in work, and an increase in the time workers are engaged in focusing on people, solving strategic problems, and thinking creatively.

Suggestions of teachers being replaced by robots have been criticised by strong advocates of the complex people work of teaching. Writing in the July 2016 Australian Teacher Magazine, the Chief Scientist Alan Finkel commented that nothing can replace a dedicated teacher, adding, No matter how technologically sophisticated our world, children work harder, see further and achieve more when there is an inspiring human being to spur them on”. Similarly, the principal of King’s School in Sydney wrote in The Australian in 2012 about the six Ps of the ideal teacher. He emphasised that five of these six Ps relate to specific interpersonal skills essential to the ideal teacher: Personable, Partner (in learning), Performer (in a performance based system), Parent, and Physician (the sixth was Progressive).

While many tasks of teaching are, and will continue to be, changed by digital technology, many facets of the role will not be. Paradoxically, humans are more important in an era of robots – in my view teachers will be even more crucial to guide and support students through these changes.

Future blogs will look at how teachers can use AI and how the curriculum needs to adapt. For now, our jobs are safe!

I look forward to reading your comments and thoughts throughout 2018.

 

Arntz, M., Gregory, T., & Zierahn, U. (2016). The Risk of Automation for Jobs in OECD Countries: A Comparative Analysis. OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, No. 189, OECD Publishing, Paris. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5jlz9h56dvq7-en

Foundation for Young Australians. (2017). The new work smarts: Thriving in the new work order. https://www.fya.org.au/report/the-new-work-smarts/

Manyika, J., Chui, M., Maremadi, M., Bughin, J., George, J., Willmott, P., & Dewhurst, M. (2017). A future that works: Automation, employment and productivity. McKinsey Global Institute. http://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/digital-disruption/harnessing-automation-for-a-future-that-works

Posted in AI, Teaching | Leave a comment

Introducing the Chair, Queensland College of Teachers Board


Emeritus Professor Wendy Patton

Emeritus Professor Wendy Patton
Chair of QCT Board

Forty years ago this month I completed my initial education degree at James Cook University. The value of education was instilled in me and my eight siblings by our parents, both of whom, due to circumstances of the time, did not attend secondary school. However, they recognised its importance in enhancing life opportunities and we were all encouraged to pursue our education goals. What has underpinned my whole career is a commitment both to expanding my own learning, and to facilitating learning to enhance life opportunities for others.

I was the first in my family to attain a university degree, and subsequent to that degree I worked in many roles in schools, and for almost thirty years in teacher education. My ongoing commitment to my own learning saw me engaged in further part-time university study for a decade, with an additional two years as a full-time student completing honours and doctoral studies.
What an honour it is then, at this stage of my career, to be able to contribute to the mission of the Queensland College of Teachers and its work in enhancing the professionalisation of teaching and raising the status of our profession. Research consistently affirms the key role of teachers in student learning outcomes.

It is hard to identify only one key challenge for the work of teachers into the future; however, the rapid nature of digital change and its impact on curriculum, the technology of teaching, and future work opportunities for our students would have to be top of mind. Humans have always had to adapt to technological change, but the speed required for adaptation is accelerating. Current technologies now change accepted ways of doing things within decades, not over decades. In 1962, as a Year 1 student, my technology was a tablet-sized piece of slate, and writing with a slate pencil was erased with a sponge; Year 1 students today are using a similar sized tablet but with far more advanced capability!

Similarly, when I began my doctoral studies in 1984, I was writing to a very unstable and very vulnerable (in Queensland summers) black floppy disk. We have progressed through a more stable and smaller-sized floppy disk, through to USB sticks with ever increasing storage capacity, and now to the “cloud” being used for data storage and transfer. Certainly this development would not have been envisaged by most of us only three decades ago.

Another related area which I believe is critical is the embedding of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers into teachers’ ways of being. The context of the standards is essentially the indisputable role of teachers in student outcomes. They provide a framework for both teacher accountability and teacher professional development, and will surely contribute to a greater public confidence in the profession.

As Chair of the Queensland College of Teachers Board I have committed to writing a regular blog for you, the teachers of Queensland. I will work to develop thoughtful pieces which will be brief, but will also provide a stimulus to you engaging in reflective and innovative practice which will not only enhance your own roles, but also facilitate fruitful outcomes for your students and the learning organisations in which you work. I welcome both feedback and suggestions for future blogs.

 

Emeritus Professor Wendy Patton

Chair,

Queensland College of Teachers Board

Posted in QCT Board | 8 Comments

The first year whirlwind: Krystal’s story


Krystal Flynn

QCT 2016 Dr Roger Hunter Excellence in Beginning to Teach Award winner Krystal Flynn, Tagai State College

I’m sure any teacher would say the beginning of the school year is always an absolute whirlwind. It’s an exciting time imagining the challenges and successes of the teaching and learning journey ahead. Every teacher has their own story about what the start of the school year was like in their first year; welcome to a little snapshot of mine 🙂

Like many other graduates, I signed up for what I believe is the ultimate teaching adventure – teaching remote! In fact, my position is probably the most remote location in Queensland, on Saibai Island in the Torres Strait Islands, 4km from Papua New Guinea. My uplift went one month before school started, I packed my bags and after three consecutive plane rides I began what has been the adventure of a lifetime.

Being on a campus that is a part of a bigger college, my school was extremely efficient in providing support for all their first year teachers. In the week before school started, we had many professional development sessions going through all facets of teaching – curriculum planning, diagnostic, formative and summative assessment timelines, student tracking documents, behaviour management and literacy and numeracy programs. As well as this, the school provided contextualised inductions on teaching (and living) specifically in the Torres Straits – everything from cultural protocols and EAL/D learners, to how to buy power cards for electricity in your house!

But the fun really started when I entered my classroom. I think there’s only one way to describe it and that is ‘so much to do… so little time.’ This included everything from creating desk-mats, labels, subject covers, resources and attendance charts to rearranging desks and selecting areas of the classroom for a carpet area, reading corner, small group activity tables and a digital learning corner. Working out what behaviour management systems would work best, what attention grabber to use, what transitions might look like and how to put routines in place… As I said, so much to do, so little time! My biggest tip would definitely be to prioritise and set short term and long term goals. It is so hard to do everything well in your first year, so identify what is most crucial and maybe leave that classroom décor idea you saw on Pinterest for another day.

Then… the craziness started on the first day. In fact for me, the craziness lasted for the first week, the first term and probably the whole first year. Everything is new, and it’s exciting and terrifying at the same time. For me, having my very first Year 1/2 class, I felt (and still feel) a huge sense of responsibility and accountability for students’ progress and achievements. I felt that it was really important to have clear objectives for both curriculum learning and behaviour by the lesson, the week, the term and the year so my students, parents, school and I knew exactly what we were aiming towards. Within this, I strongly believe in the process of planning, implementing and reflecting continually and also celebrating what works and changing what doesn’t.

The school year is jam packed with so many events it can sometimes feel that there is no ‘normal’ week. Whether it be sporting events, parent teacher interviews, school fetes, Easter, Christmas, twilight sessions, parade items, school concerts, eisteddfods, swimming carnivals… the list goes on!

And then when you’ve moved more than 2,000km away from home to an island of 300 people, you learn a few extra tricks to have up your sleeve. Like how to change a gas bottle, how to light a hot water system, how to tie a fishing line, how to move like a Saibai dancer, how to survive when fresh fruit and veggies don’t arrive for 2 weeks and how to enjoy some of the most simple things in life for what they are.

Being a beginning teacher in a remote island school has been an incredible experience. It may be a cliché to say that you learn so much in your first year but it is completely true. It is hard work, extremely hard work, but also just as rewarding. For all those beginning teachers of 2017, who are working tirelessly day in and out to make a difference, take a deep breath and smile, because you’re not in this alone. Find the people in your teaching community who have sound advice and bring that positive energy. Let’s all support each other to make Queensland’s beginning teachers the best we can be!

Posted in Beginning Teaching, QCT Excellence in Teaching Awards | 3 Comments

Every school needs a champion – new ClassMovies share digital leaders’ tips


We live in a world where digital technologies are ubiquitous and pervade all aspects of our lives. Students in our classrooms need to be given opportunities to become creators of digital solutions, not just passive consumers of the technology. In doing so, we enable them to develop the skills required to participate fully in society and in the world of work.

The new Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies gives every child in Australia the opportunity to not only develop and consolidate digital literacy skills, but to be taught the fundamental concepts and skills of computer science and computational thinking.

We are very fortunate to have many teachers in Queensland who are already doing some amazing work in this area. This week we’re pleased to share some of their innovative practices through the Queensland College of Teachers ClassMovies channel, which invites you into classrooms so you can see this exciting work. These short movies also highlight how teachers are able to demonstrate key elements of quality teaching as described in the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.

Jane Batham from Good News Lutheran School provides examples of students engaging in fun activities whilst learning about binary numbers; Joel Speranza from St Joseph’s Nudgee College shares tips for adopting the ‘Flipped Learning’ pedagogy; Nicola Flanagan describes the award-winning Oakleigh State School approach to whole school implementation and Paul Hamilton from Mathew Flinders Anglican College explains the importance of digital pedagogy.

At St Hilda’s School, on the Gold Coast, Dan Martinez articulates his school’s journey with iPads in the classroom and Joanne Klien from Brightwater State School gives us an insight into how learning in the new Digital Technologies curriculum can be both fun and exciting. Kristine Kopelke from Meridan State College has focused on innovative practice in the early years and Richard Bauer from St Joseph’s Nudgee College shares his expertise in contemporary learning spaces.

One of the benefits of the new Digital Technologies curriculum is that it can be taught in conjunction with other learning areas and teachers are coming up with clever and creative ways to implement the key concepts. Who would have imagined that Prep students could learn numeracy and literacy skills whilst interacting with robotic toys such as Bee Bots and Dash and Dot? Or students designing scenes from texts using Minecraft or using 3D printers and digital drawing software to print products?

For teachers in schools where resources are limited, certain content in the new curriculum can be delivered via a series of unplugged activities. These activities are not reliant on digital devices and some can even be undertaken using pen and paper. Teachers who are yet to engage with the new curriculum will find a range of resources available to support them, regardless of where they are positioned in their learning journey.

In the words of teacher Paul Hamilton, ‘Every school needs a champion’. We thank the teachers in our latest suite of ClassMovies, their school leaders and students for inviting us into their classrooms and schools. We hope you enjoy the movies. Let us know what you think.

Check out the ClassMovies Digital Technologies Pond.

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Is That Really Acceptable?


JohnRyanBlogAuthorI believe the most important responsibility of the Queensland College of Teachers (QCT) is deciding who is admitted to the teaching profession and who remains in it. In the great majority of cases it is an easy decision.

Most applicants and teachers act ethically, both professionally and personally.  They are worthy of the special trust and responsibility vested in them by our community.

There is another very small group where it is also easy to make a decision about their suitability to teach – those who have committed certain serious criminal offences or have significantly crossed the professional boundaries expected of a teacher. Clearly these people are not suitable to teach our children.

Where it becomes challenging is when a person has or acquires criminal history or crosses professional boundaries, but not to the degree mentioned above.

Where do you draw the line: at one drug offence, two drug offences, six drug offences? What factors should be taken into account when assessing a person’s character for entering or remaining in the profession? Nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes. For how long should a significant mistake be held against a person?

Some of the legislation governing the QCT is expected to be changed in the near future. If the changes are passed by State Parliament, the QCT will have to develop policy about:

  • the behaviour or types of behaviour that would exclude someone from being admitted to the profession
  • the behaviour or types of behaviour, either personal or professional, that would lead to a teacher’s registration being suspended and/or cancelled.

To help inform policy on these areas the QCT will run focus groups with classroom teachers and principals, and with representatives of parent groups, teacher unions and employer authorities.

As the regulator of the teaching profession in Queensland, the QCT is predominately about peers making judgements about peers, which is why the majority of board members are registered teachers. Board members must always take into account what is in the best interests of school students and the profession.

If you were a member of one of these focus groups what would be the key points you would like to make? You can leave your comments below:

Posted in Professional Boundries, Teaching, Uncategorized | 31 Comments

Power to Queensland Teachers


JohnRyanBlogAuthorThe word democracy is Greek in origin and literally translated, means power to the people.

Love them or hate them, elections are part of our lives. Whilst some of us may complain about the inconvenience of having to vote in government elections, the thought of the alternative is abhorrent. Imagine living in a country where you do not have the basic human right to help decide who governs.

At the Queensland College of Teachers (QCT), practising teachers have the right to vote for three positions on our governing body, which helps shape education policy and makes decisions affecting the profession.

Over the coming months you will have the ability to not only vote for who you want to be on the Board, but to nominate yourself.

Your vote is crucial, not only for the future of the profession, but for the future of being able to maintain that vote.

Throughout the world the boards of teacher regulatory authorities, like the QCT, are put together in different ways. For instance, in Scotland and Ontario, a majority of their Board members are elected by teachers.

In Queensland, major stakeholders nominate most of the Board members and three practising teachers – two from the state sector and one from the non-state sector – are elected by teachers. Overall, there are 17 QCT Board members, including a minimum of nine registered teachers.

Whilst the number of teachers elected by their peers is limited (compared to Scotland or Ontario), it is still an opportunity for teachers to both nominate and/or elect Board members. If a significant number of teachers do not exercise their right to vote, Government may look at other options for appointing three Board members and teachers may lose their right to vote. It is important that teachers make up the majority of Board members.

Good governance of a profession by its members is a characteristic of a mature profession.

The Board of the QCT decides the strategic direction, and controls the affairs, of the College. The Board members have great responsibilities and must have a broad understanding of corporate governance and excellent knowledge of contemporary educational issues.

It won’t take long to either nominate for a position on the Board and/or cast your vote. Details of the election can be found on the home page of the QCT at www.qct.edu.au

The upcoming election of teachers for the 2016 Board belongs to Queensland teachers. Make the most of this opportunity to have your say. Exercise your right to vote and encourage others to as well!

Regards,
John Ryan
QCT Director

Posted in Elections, QCT Board | Leave a comment

Mutual Fear


One of the benefits of gaining more and more life experience – ok, let’s be real, growing older – is it allows you to reflect on how you have dealt with certain tasks and challenges. It also allows you to see more clearly both sides of some issues.

I was interested to read a research report we commissioned recently about teachers and parents working together. It allowed me to reflect on how I interacted with parents as a teacher, and how I interacted with teachers as a parent. It also allowed me to think about my own children and their homework.

I know homework is a vexed issue amongst teachers and parents – how much should there be, if any? How difficult should the task be? Should it be reinforcement or enquiry-based?  Many of us are familiar with Karl Stefanovic’s rant, earlier this year on the morning show he co-hosts, about homework involving constructing suspension bridges.

I was interested to read that “close parental supervision of a child’s homework has the potential to be counter-productive, and giving parents formal training in how to help their children in specific subjects areas does not seem to make a difference”. This seems to go against common sense, but when you look at what the research says about what makes a difference, it starts to become apparent why it’s the case.

On reflection, I can recall how frustrating helping with homework was for everyone involved as my boys progressed through school, particularly in the middle and senior phases of schooling. Reading the research paper I realised that I was not alone in my feelings of frustration and ineptness as my sons studied subjects that I did not have expertise in or used methodologies that had changed so much since I studied the subject. I clearly remember the bemused look from one of my sons when I asked him for his slide rule to help solve a mathematical problem.

So how could I have spent my time more productively with my boys?

It appears I could have had the most influence on my sons’ education by: having high expectations for them, showing an interest in their learning development, talking to them about things that interested them, and discussing their educational and career aspirations. I hope I did these things as well as supervising their homework. Having these types of conversations may have been far more enjoyable than me drilling my sons about logarithms and trigonometry (my apologies to my sons’ maths teachers!). The research also mentions the importance of talking about how maths works in real life and how it can be used at home to solve challenges.

The research showed that effective schools had highly engaged parents and students, while children whose parents were actively engaged were more likely to achieve higher outcomes and develop positive self-esteem.

So the teacher/parent relationship is paramount; parents have to feel connected with schools. Parents need to feel welcomed at schools and the language and culture of schools need to be demystified for parents. Teachers and schools have an important role in establishing a positive relationship.

The term mutual fear is used in the research. It refers to the fear both teachers and parents feel about talking to each other. I clearly remember my very first class of 8 and 9 year olds. At the end of Term 1 we had parent/teacher interviews. The father of one of my students lectured at a College of Advanced Education in early childhood studies. He was held in high-esteem in the profession. I can still remember the anxiety I felt as my interview commenced with both the parents. Was he going to be critical of my teaching strategies? My fear was quickly alleviated when I heard the words “we will support you in any way possible”. Hindsight is easy, but if I had my time over again I would have had interviews earlier than waiting until the end of the term and ensure I had a number of positive comments to give each parent about their child.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on what the evidence says about teachers and parents collaborating to assist students to reach their full academic potential.

If you haven’t already, you can read the full report we commissioned “Parents and teachers: Working together to foster children’s learning” here:  bit.ly/1GDEaJw

Do you have strong views on any of the issues raised in it?JohnRyanBlogAuthor

Kind Regards,

John Ryan.

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