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September 16, 2009

Will Technology Replace Teachers?

The LA Times recently wrote about the University of Houston’s program offering credit for a P.E. class based on Nintendo’s Wii Fit.  No doubt some parents are concerned that their tuition dollars are going to video gaming.

The New York Times published a piece today lamenting the loss of foreign language teaching positions.

Inevitably, objections are raised whenever technology is married to education.  For example, not everyone was keen to bless the use of calculators in the classroom.  Either it is seen as “cheating” or there is concern that tech will replace teachers.

However, Wakefield‘s work with tech brands has shown us that when it comes to consumer technology in the classroom and the workplace, the best technologies enhance human capabilities, not replace them.

For example, no doubt that some students at the University of Houston signed up for the Wii P.E. class expecting an easy A.  They have a shock coming. When Wakefield’s researchers conducted the positioning and experiential research for Wii Fit, they found that young adults actually underestimated how challenging the experience can be.  If ability has any impact on these students’ grades, they may need to get fit fast.

While the games are fun, research shows that users are actually more interested in Wii Fit as a fitness tool rather than as video game entertainment. 

Likewise, while some teachers and parents are concerned that technology-based language learning is replacing teachers in the classroom, not all programs are created equal.  Programs such as Rosetta Stone are not designed to replace teachers, but to give teachers more tools and capabilities.

The takeaway is that technology is best used as a way to enhance the educational experience, not as a replacement for teachers and human interaction.  When this formula is followed, it produces great results for users, and increased profit for brands.