Few high-tech entrepreneurs, pundits, or booster of online learning, much less, policymakers, would ever say aloud publicly that robots and hand-held devices will eventually replace teachers. Yet many fantasize that such an outcome will occur. High-profile awards to entrepreneurs, the occasional cartoon, and advocates who dream of online instruction anywhere, anytime transforming education feed the fantasy.
Consider Sugata Mitra, Professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University (United Kingdom). He recently received the TED award of $1 million for creating learning environments where illiterate Indian children had access to computers in actual holes-in-walls on streets of New Delhi slums. Some of the children told him: “You’ve given us a machine that works only in English, so we had to teach ourselves English.” Believing that children’s sense of wonder and intrepid curiosity would spur them to use computers and learn English, science, and whatever else they were curious about on their own, Mitra said to his audiences and funders: “My wish is to help design the future of learning by supporting children all over the world to tap into their innate sense of wonder and work together. Help me build the School in the Cloud, a learning lab in India, where children can embark on intellectual adventures by engaging and connecting with information and mentoring online.”