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How to win the education tech crisis? Empowering teachers is the path to triumph

Updated: Apr 3

As the education system crashes inward, its approach to technology won't salvage it. Can the education system take the lead in technology? Is success possible? And why is it crucial to empower teachers now?

* This article was published on CTECH.

After three years of Corona and six months of war and national trauma, following decades of neglect of fundamental problems in the education system, we have reached a dead end. To lay the groundwork for a solution, let's start with aligning on the key problems.

  1. Political considerations trump educational priorities, weakening the system. Consequently, every innovative initiative fails against a mechanism incapable of effecting transformation.

  2. Educators are crushed under suffocating bureaucracy and a predominantly negative narrative that views this committed public as merely seeking to do the bare minimum.

  3. The shortage of teachers is a severe blow that breaks the camel's back. Those who remain in the system either succumb or become apathetic. Certainly, they cannot drive the necessary changes given the turbulent reality of recent years.

  4. The loss of relevance for students. This future generation is the customer of the education system, and the goal for which it exists, although it seems the system has long forgotten about it.

  5. Hovering over this system are helicopter parents, armed with criticism swords and communication whips, lamenting their children's flawed education.

"Technology in the classroom has many facets, but one thing is clear: it does not always require mediators." Yael Shafrir, CEO of ReShuffle.

The conventional adoption of technology is a path to nowhere

The advanced world outside the walls of the education system sees the adoption of new technology as the key to solving problems, developing transformative methodologies, and generating a relatively rapid and scalable change. Indeed tech tools sound like a logical direction to turn graduates of the system to potential employees that are ready for the future that awaits them. However, when the techie approach encounters the education system, it gives rise to a clash.

The integration of learning technologies and digital methodologies in today's classrooms often involves teachers serving as mediators. These educators are expected to acquire technological skills, create TikTok videos, experiment with AI tools, and generate reports from various dashboards. Yet, is there a genuine need for a mediator between students and technology? Is comparative grading relevant in an age where technology can measure personal progress accurately? Moreover, can outdated teacher training programs, many of which have lost their relevance in a world of lifelong learning, adequately prepare educators for guiding advanced digital learning? It's time to reconsider the traditional hierarchical model that places the teacher at the center of learning.

The solution, as usual, lies right under our noses

Let's start with what won't work.

There is no reason to abandon technology in the classroom, as recently decided in Sweden, a country previously considered a beacon in education that in recent years has struggled with declining student achievements. Students need to feel comfortable in this world, and removing technology from the classroom will harm the vulnerable and widen gaps. But the educational world, both in Israel and globally, does not feel at ease in the technological arena, so it applies outdated perceptions, which fail and affirm its starting assumption — we tried technology in the classroom and it didn't work. It's akin to saying, "I tried food and didn't like it, so I stopped eating."

"Students need to feel comfortable in this world, and removing technology from the classroom will harm the vulnerable and widen gaps." Yael Shafrir, CEO of ReShuffle. Photography: Segev Orlev

Technology in the classroom has many facets, but one thing is clear: it does not always require mediators. We should select tools that align with current learning objectives, conduct pilots, evaluate progress based on these objectives, solicit feedback from students, and iterate on this process. Then, we can focus on the most crucial aspect of this transformation: redefining the role of the teacher. Individuals who view education as a calling relish the opportunity to understand students' needs and provide them with solutions. They possess empathy, compassion, assimilation skills, ample patience, and the ability to delicately balance encouragement and challenge. However, many individuals who enter the field of education for these reasons find themselves increasingly unfulfilled.

Imagine technological tools operated without intermediaries, wielded effortlessly by students whose screens are extensions of their hands, and technology seamlessly integrates into their thought processes. These students, digital natives by birth, possess an innate ability to navigate within technology, so why not empower them? Want to tighten your pitch using ChatGPT? By all means! Looking to enhance your presentation with MidJourney? Absolutely! Need to manage teamwork via Monday? Go right ahead! The approach to technology rests with the students, while the observation of the process and its outcomes falls to the teachers. Above all, liberation from bureaucratic shackles and outdated hierarchies frees up valuable time and space for teachers to engage with their students on an individual level and allows teachers to bring all their expertise and passion to the classroom.

In this era, more than ever, we must uphold this vision.

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