Should we be afraid of big replacements?

Will the computer equipped with artificial intelligence replace the teacher? Some articles make us believe that this has already been done. Bruno Devachel returns to this myth and shows his age. Behind the concept of teaching machine, he sees our natural and ideological tastes. An appetite that develops in school with school. “If we want to dispel the myth of teacher replacement through instruments, then teaching and transitioning in the context of digital society needs to be illuminated with new problems” …

Mechanization of education, an old fantasy

And if one day the “machine” replaces the teacher, as announced This article ? Aiming at the new minister more seriously Philip Meieru writes : “I know that some people cherish the secret hope of replacing part of the work of teachers (if not all) through digital, but I hope that, like me, you do not want to solve this: You know that the thought of learning to analyze, under the pretext of “adapting” to individuals, fixes them in an imaginary “nature” and defines their future from their past … You have always fought against it. ” These claims require further investigation and analysis. Indeed, the idea of ​​a “great replacement” of teachers by machine is not new. It is a kind of “chestnut tree” but it is a “scarecrow” that all skeptics of educational technology say systematically during each of their evolutions. Such an argument can be compared to the fact that all fears are expressed when a new technology appears, as Jack Perialt clearly showed many years ago. However, one should not be blown away without trying to understand and reconsider this question.

The fantasy school of educational transformation through digital technology has been present since the beginning of computing, as can be seen in the numerous documents of the 1980s. Added to this dream is the dream long before the mechanization of education / learning and hence its use. The technical way to achieve this. The Virginia Jumper Thesis (Teaching Tools: Design and Testing of a Prototype for Acquisition through Text Publishing, 2003, Grenoble) Explains this question (p. 66), recalling the arguments of its designers. “The machine allows the mechanization of certain tasks such as modification and moving on to the next unit. In Skinner’s machine the units follow each other linearly”. Drawing on the examples of Pressey’s machine (1920) and its critical successors (Skinner, Crowder), we see that some researchers, researchers and inventors want to try to understand and implement learning processes based on psychological work. Teaching machine. One would think of this fantastic level of sustainability in modeling brain function in machines. Following these proposals, such as programmed education, it is easy to understand why the question of “replacement” of teachers by machine is still relevant, as Philippe Marieau is currently echoing it. One might even be surprised at some of the comments of “experts” in the cognitive sciences who often extend similarities in an underlying way.

A “other place” for the teacher?

In his thesis, Vignini Jumpa shows that learning analysis or even adaptive learning begins with Presy’s First Learning Instrument (1920): “An automated machine for correcting multiple choice questions (QCM). […] Successful questions are no longer presented and the system monitors the answers given.[…] However, this is not limited to a simple automatic correction of the MCQ: it is interactive (questions are changed according to the answer), slightly adaptable (it does not represent successful questions), and computer science in the 1980s about the first machine to keep it. ” The author followed the same path with “software”. The rise of work on artificial intelligence in the 1980s and its return to the “AI” stage in 2015-2020 has raised the question. Replacement or not?

The sales pitch of all these current projects naturally reflects this idea of ​​the essential place of the teacher in the school learning process. It’s a question of not being afraid of the professional world where strategies (often over-evaluated) suggest devices where the teacher will have “another place.” We hear some designers announcing that the analysis of traces will help the teacher to better assist the student in his / her learning. Others, less noisy, are already suggesting that software diagnostics be used to “direct” teacher corrective action. Many would even suggest that the machine itself provide remedies. Presi was not wrong, Philippe Mario? And yet, should we consider a “great replacement” to come? In the last fifty years we have seen the appearance of many presentations or experiments around this transmission function. A common question in a search engine with the theme “Teaching Robots in South Korea” returns numerous articles published from 2010 to 2021. So it’s not a guess to ignore, it’s a recurring theme in the media anyway.

Human interaction is at the heart of the infection

The problem raised by Philippe Marieauer is based on partial presentation, somewhat faster, transition work (he speaks of an educational relationship) and analysis learning techniques (as reproductions of the past). What fascinates us with the daily use of digital technology is that the machine quickly learns what we are and creates a model that offers us as a distorted mirror. To understand this, it is sufficient to adopt it using all its digitally proposed tracing techniques: the services offered are based primarily on the fact that we prefer compatibility with what we already know and the unknown and uncertain annoying us. Sometimes these systems, according to their designers, can offer unexpected, intriguing curiosity, a desire to discover. The user therefore faces a dilemma: agrees to stay in his comfort zone or go beyond the risk of becoming unstable. The school was properly designed to keep distance from comfort zones (or facilities). But it has increasingly lost consciousness in favor of a “confirmation” through the program and a specific organization (the famous school form).

Teachers need to recognize that they are at the forefront of this choice: to be in the process of ideological reproduction or to try hard to open up unexpectedly. The power of digital is to keep the unexpected at your fingertips. The weakness of digital is that it encourages us to be simple and standardized. This is why it is important for teachers to be aware of this evolution, which is not only technical but also social. The social imagery surrounding the teaching and teaching profession shows a real adherence to the concept of “learning instrument” (cf. Eric Bruillard’s book on the subject). If we are to put an end to the myth of teacher replacement through machines, then teaching and transitioning in the context of a digital society must be replaced with newly enlightened problems. Yes, we can now access many tools and devices that offer learning without school and without teachers. However, Moocs and other digital self-training tools create a “human” expectation: adaptation to the context of life, because learning cannot be deprecated as much as some people imagine. Human interaction is at the heart of society and the daily life of the transition, they are the engine of adaptation to reality, let’s not know how to give them a new place both at school and outside, digitally or without.

Bruno Devouchel

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