New Study Illustrates Why K-12 Teachers Will Survive the Machine Age

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Christensen Institute finds technology should be embraced to solve systemic challenges

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Technology can help educators rise to the increasing demands they face without sacrificing quality or their wellbeing.

With predictions that nearly half of all employed Americans will lose their jobs to automation within the next two decades, many are questioning the impact on the largest profession in the U.S.: teaching. New research from the Clayton Christensen Institute examines the attributes of expert teaching and finds that the role of K-12 teachers is safely beyond the reach of their robotic counterparts.

In “Teaching in the Machine Age: How innovation can make bad teachers good and good teachers better,” Thomas Arnett, a senior researcher at the Christensen Institute, explains why technology shouldn’t be feared, but embraced to solve systemic challenges in education.

“Humans and machines have intrinsically different attributes and add value in distinct ways,” says Arnett. “Technology can commoditize some aspects of teaching, allowing teachers to focus more on the substantive aspects of instruction. Technology won’t replace great teachers; but it can enhance their ability to meet their students’ learning needs.”

Arnett’s research outlines three common circumstances in which schools and educators can utilize technology to redesign instructional models and teacher roles to maximize student outcomes:

1. Scarcity of expert teachers. Technology can augment the capabilities of novice teachers or teachers who lack pedagogical or content expertise.

2. Wide-ranging student needs. Technology can provide expert teachers with more effective methods for differentiating their instruction.

3. Teaching beyond academics. Technology can reconfigure existing workloads so educators can focus on deeper learning and noncognitive skills.

In traditional classrooms, even the best teachers struggle to manage all the responsibilities placed on their shoulders. By using technology to redesign instructional models and teacher roles, schools can not only increase teacher effectiveness, but improve overall job satisfaction as well. Technology can streamline teachers’ workloads and empower them with data and resources to reach each of their students.

“Effective teaching is demanding work, and teachers’ time is scarce,” says Arnett. “Technology can help educators rise to the increasing demands they face without sacrificing quality or their wellbeing.”

The full study can be found at Follow the conversation on Twitter at #TeachWithTech.

The Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation ( is a nonprofit research organization dedicated to improving the world through disruptive innovation. Founded on the theories of Harvard professor Clayton Christensen, the Institute offers a unique framework for addressing many of society’s most pressing issues.

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