The answer to this question, says this reader, is no. Libertarians and folks on the right believe that technology will make it possible to replace teachers with machines. Machines don’t need health care or pensions. And their salaries don’t go up in a step schedule. When the machines get obsolete, you junk them. With teachers, you can’t just toss them aside, unless your state passed a law banning seniority and tenure.
This is the reader’s comment:
As a technology professional, I guarantee that technology is not a way to save money in education.
I do think it can be a way to improve instruction in some subjects, and to allow kids more options if they are willing to self-direct and take responsibility for their own learning. For example, an ambitious kid who wants to learn Mandarin in a school with no Mandarin teacher and no other students who want to learn Mandarin could do so online, on school time, using school resources, while guided by a non-Mandarin speaking teacher. I wholly support this. This is far different from expecting that you could put 100 or even 40 random students in a room and expect that by the end of the year they will all be able to communicate in basic Mandarin.
People think that technology (unlike teachers) doesn’t eat; that is, that it has an initial purchase price and then you don’t have to keep paying for it. Ask yourself how many private organizations of 200 or 2000 people do so without a large in-house technology staff. Ask yourself how many schools have enough amperage in their electrical systems – let alone outlets – to handle all those computers, and the inevitable air conditioning that follows. Ask yourself how much new batteries cost and how often they’ll have to be replaced. Ask yourself what will happen at this school on the days the internet is down.
And these ridiculous ratios of students to teachers online miss other important realities. If students are going to write essays, they have to be graded by humans. 200 essays is a lot to grade whether you are in the same room during the day or not. I suppose we could save money for a decade or two by outsourcing the grading of our english essays to India… would be quite interesting to see how our use of written idiom changes as a result!