My grandfather Arthur was born in 1889. Descending from a long line of blacksmiths, he became a blacksmith too. One of his first jobs as a young man was working as a blacksmith for the Texas Rangers. He became very adept and expert in his vocation and became a farrier too, a blacksmith who watches the gait of the horse then trims the hooves and fashions the shoes to improve the horse's walking and running. An orthopedist for horses, essentially. He was indispensable to the local farmers who relied on horses.
But agriculture evolved and farms were worked with tractors. My grandfather's shop transitioned from smithing to mechanics. He learned how the engines worked on early tractors and automobiles. It was a huge change from working with live animals to working with machines, but it was the nature of his business at the time. And he became indispensable for his mechanical skills.
During my grandfather's lifetime, schools remained largely unchanged. The only option for a student was to attend the local school within whose district he or she resided or drop out of school altogether.
But education is changing rapidly. Online learning is revolutionary. The options for our students are no longer the neighboring districts or the local parochial school. The competition is across the state, across the nation, and around the world. It is estimated that by 2019, half of high school courses will be online.
My grandfather could have ignored or fought the transition to mechanized farming. What would have happened to him if he had? But he adapted and remained successful.
Teachers cannot afford to fight technology and online learning. Those who do could go the way of the blacksmithing profession.
If we have teachers that can be replaced by computers, then we should, and quickly. Fortunately, the teachers I know will always have the capability to be far more valuable than the instruction that can be offered strictly through a machine. What we need our classrooms and courses that are so engaging that they remain relevant and become invaluable. The key is that we all must embrace the change, adapt to the new nature of today's education, and make ourselves indispensable for the educational services we can provide.
With our technology, we are within a year or two of developing a supercomputer that can exceed the computational powers of the human brain. But no computer will ever exceed the power of the human soul.