Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Computers Are Clever but They Cannot Be Wise

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Computers Are Clever but They Cannot Be Wise

Article excerpt

The wooing of teachers began in earnest this week, as England's new education secretary Nicky Morgan blew metaphorical kisses to the profession in a Conservative Party conference speech complete with gags on Nick Gibb ("So good they appointed him twice") and Tristram Hunt's seven-minute Labour conference address ("Did you catch his speech last week? You had to be quick").

It was a full-on charm offensive, with Morgan playing the Alan Johnson to her predecessor's Charles Clarke (as higher education minister, Johnson steered in controversial university top-up fees, later quipping that he supplied the charm while education secretary Clarke had been offensive).

Morgan praised the dedication of teachers ("If our school story has a hero, it's them"), adding that she wanted to reduce their burden - and it's a big one, as the new NUT workload survey reveals - so that they could spend more time teaching. What this would actually entail is unclear but her aim is true and it puts teachers centre stage.

This stands in stark contrast to the nightmare vision of the future educational landscape that has been offered by a collection of global experts (see pages 12-13). According to a survey conducted for the World Innovation Summit for Education, in 2030 there will be no lectures, exams or imposed curricula. Pupils will work on home computers, be judged by their peers and focus on practical skills rather than academic knowledge.

More to the point, there will be no teachers. Sugata Mitra, a professor of educational technology at Newcastle University, said back in April that it was time for teachers to stop being experts and instead be children's friends. …

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