Are Teachers About To Be Replaced By Bots?

It’s generally accepted that as technology moves into classrooms, teachers will move, as the saying goes, “from a sage on the stage to a guide on side.”That shift has rightly troubled teachers and teaching advocates who fear that educators who instruct, analyze and provide vital context will be diminished or co-opted outright by soulless, algorithm-driven tech.

Generally, it’s been easy to dismiss those fears in favor of some to-be-determined technology/teacher partnership.But those replacement fears may be both worse than expected and closer than anticipated.

Although it’s just making the rounds of academic journals now, fully four years ago, in 2014, education technology pioneers were already designing and testing a teacher-bot.

More accurately, it was a “botteacher” that assumed some teaching responsibilities in a MOOC – a massive open online course.  A review of one botteacher experiment was recently published in the Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 2018 by Aras Bozkurt of Anadolu University in Turkey, Whitney Kilgore at the University of North Texas and Matt Crosslin, from University of Texas, Arlington.

The team analyzed a botteacher named Botty that operated on Twitter by searching for and responding to a course-specific hashtag and keywords. “When Botty found the hashtag, it would reply by using a series of automated responses that were pre-crafted by the course facilitators. These tweets took the form of course guidance or even thought-provoking utterances designed to engage the learner in discussion with the bot and with others,” the researchers wrote.