How Automation Will Change Education


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How Automation Will Change Education

April 4, 2021


The Purpose of Automation

Automation has always had one purpose—to increase quality and efficiency by reducing human functions. This has been mostly seen through new technologies like computers and robotics that perform tasks that humans usually did. The difference is computers and robots are consistent and do things exactly how they are programmed. Computers can remember everything and has infinite processing capability,and machines never get tired. The increase in efficiency and quality is astronomical!

Thus, many jobs that require memorization, repetitive tasks, or involves calculating numbers, have been automated and no longer require human beings to perform them. With the advancement of artificial intelligence, cameras, and processors, now almost any job can be automated. We have seen manufacturing plants that are run almost entirely by robots, multiple organizations have computer programs that analyze data and make decisions that usually a human analyst would make, and more recently, we see that even driving can be automated with self-driving cars. Not to mention machines taking over customer service and cashier positions.

It was only a matter of time before someone found a way to start automating education.

How Automation is Being Used in Classrooms

I have been in the education industry for almost my entire life. I started as a student at the age of 6. I finally finished my education at the age of 30 with a PhD in Supply Chain Management and Engineering. For the next five years I was a professor at Arizona State University and for the last 4 years I have been supporting the Leadership Society of Arizona by mentoring and educating K-12 students. I have seen the advances in technology and automation in the education realm for the last 30 years.

At first, technology was built to help do the work with tools like the calculator, scantron tests, and simple computer programs that could track attendance and grades. Then teachers started using overhead projectors, film strips, and then A/V resources. Next, we saw that certain concepts and skills started to be automated using videos, computer programs, and machines. Now, we are finding that every aspect of education is being automated including the teacher. Technology has made it possible to digitize the physical location and instead use virtual classrooms.

Many people believe that COVID-19 is to blame with a lot of the automation that has taken place in education over the last year (2020-2021). However, the changes that have been taking place started much earlier than the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic just forced society to transition quicker. Online schooling existed many years before 2020, but online schools saw their enrollment make the biggest jump since they opened. One e-learning organization identified their increase was 200%, and some saw an even bigger jump. Of course, as the pandemic ends, we might see a decrease in the number of students learning virtually, but many people will never go back to the traditional schooling, and education will be more integrated into technology and automation than ever before.

This will be the only way to get the best and cheapest education.

What Automation will do to Education in the Future?

How does automation improve education and decrease the cost? Simple, technology can mimic the best practices from all over the world and hundreds of different teachers. You see, to find a person that has developed themselves to follow all the correct practices and do everything the best teachers in the world would do, is very costly. Just to hire a regular teacher takes around $35k-$60k a year. It costs double that to hire the best teachers. However, to build a robot that can do the same thing, that doesn’t eat, sleep, or need to be trained is a miniscule cost in the long run.

In the future, technology will be able to fully automate teaching. It will eliminate the need to go to an actual school, to have to be in a class, it will enable a person to have a personal teacher that stays with them all the way through their college education. That one “person” will be the best at all the subjects the child will ever learn. This “person” can teach the child at their own pace. In the future, no one will be able to teach better and less costly than a robot.  

The other day, I saw an advertisement for an electronic toy that interacts with a child, is their friend, and teaches the child while they play with the child. I thought then, if they can do that now, what is going to happen in the next 20 years? I have no doubt they will automate the teacher and the entire education system.

5 Things Automation Can’t Replace

For most people, the ability to automate teaching should be exciting, but if you are worried about this, you are either a teacher or you are against technology. In either case, there are certain things that technology will have a hard time automating.

  1. Mentorship and Leadership – Although technology will be able to automate the ability to teach any technical skill (i.e., math, science, coding, etc.), it is more difficult to automate the mentorship and leadership of an adult. Mentorship and leadership have to be customized to the person. Unlike technical skills, goal setting is not straight forward. This will make adults that are able to mentor and lead students very valuable. Currently, there are very few people who can lead and mentor students. One of these reasons is that it takes a person that lives a certain way. You can’t teach discipline unless you have it. So, the good news is that this is something that can’t be automated, but the bad news is that it takes a lot to have it.
  2. Socializing – Although you can create robots that mimic humans to a large degree, unless you can create robots that act exactly like a human, you will never be able to automate socializing with others. I believe this is another action that is safe from automation in the next hundred years. This will be something that we will still need education for.
  3. Teamwork and Working with Others – As with socializing, in order to be part of a team and work with others, you will need people. There is no way to automate this. In the future, we might not need as much teamwork and jobs might be more individualized. Nevertheless, there will always be a high demand for people who can work with others, and this can only be learned through practice.
  4. Innovation and Creativity – Although almost everything in life will be affected by automation, the development of automated programs and education technology cannot be automated. In order to create automated programs and innovative education technology, you will need a person to do that. Someone that has the ability to combine different ideas and technology. This is the future of jobs in education. One of the things they found out in the chess world, is that a computer program can play chess better than most people, but a computer program cannot go up against a master chess player that is using another computer. And this will be the same with education. A person that is able to use and understand technology will always be able to produce something better than just a computer.
  5. Reputation and Accomplishment – Nothing can replace a person that has accomplished great things that students look up to. Although robots can imitate and replace the best of teachers, a person that is teaching that has amazing accomplishments and a reputation that students look up to, will be able to do more than any automated teacher can do. This is something that technology can’t replace. Thus, in the future a teacher will have to have great accomplishments that students admire to attract a lot of students.

About the Author

Read more about Dr. Jacob’s latest book.
Dr. Jacob Kashiwagi is business management consultant and acting Chairman of the Board for Leadership Society of Arizona. Dr. Jacob has worked on 1,100+ industry projects valued at $3.6 billion with a 95% success rate. He has taught over 1,300 college students and 2,500 high school students.

Read more articles by Dr. Jacob.