And in a sign that the world of education just became even more dystopian, I offer you this article… a piece about how real teachers can now cut their teeth and practice being a teacher on virutal students.
As the article says (cause, you can’t make this up), “such simulations give teachers in training the ability to experiment—and make mistakes—without the worry of doing harm to an actual child’s learning.”
Without the worry of doing harm to the child’s learning? I’ve spent 10 minutes trying to come up with a snappy way to mock this nonsense when it just dawned on me… I don’t even understand what that phrase means!
So if I make a mistake at the front of the room – I misquote a famous poet, fail to properly illuminate a missing comma, and so on – I am “doing harm to a child’s learning”?
Of course, I don’t want to be a cynic, but if you read the article they open with an example of a teacher wrestling with some classroom management issues.
The student-teacher faces a rowdy class.
“We’re not going to have that kind of behavior in here,” she says. “It’s too loud in here to move on.”
The students don’t pay much attention. A boy in the back row, wearing a sleeveless T-shirt, slumps his shoulders. Another student waves his hand aimlessly.
“Nah, just stretching,” he replies, when the teacher asks if he needs something.
Indeed, sounds like rough stuff. I mean, oh my goodness, those computer kids really seem to talk back, too. Heavens-to-Betsie’s, what in the world is an educator to do?
I wonder if the avatar kids do any of the following:
- laugh when their friend farts
- falsely blame a non-farter for farting (all while making a big stink of the stink)
Okay, okay, a little decorum, please. The avatars, it’s safe to assume (and unlike very real kids), generate zero wind.
But I do wonder if they ever…
- walk into class crying because their alcoholic mother smashed their cell phone to smithereens 4 minutes before 1st period started.
- bounce into class simultaneously elated and terrified by the prospect of losing their virginity after school.
Do I need to go on?
Okay, it’s a good idea to be innovative but if we’re gonna bring avatars into education, why not flip the script, have an avatar teach a standards-based classroom lesson on the front video screen and have security guards with dogs patrol the room waiting to pounce at the slightest behavioral infraction? Security guards are cheaper than teachers, dogs don’t draw a paycheck or a pension and, as we all know, central command can then script the lessons while bubble tests can assess the performance.
Now the article which I mock does try to buttress itself with buzzwords and fancy sounding terms such as “there are 2 million discreet combinations possible.”
But these are not real kids! And are we not teaching educators if we dare to pre-service them with avatars instead of real kids, that there really is not difference between computer generated children and REAL children? Plus, what message are you sending to these soon-to-be instructors?
- We’ve discounted the value of humanity so much that we believe we can replicate the actions, feelings and behavior of real children?
- We are so confident that personhood can be imitated through 0’s and 1’s that as soon as we figure out how to simply replace you, the classroom teacher, with 1’s and 0’s, we are gonna pull your plug?
Are fake kids ever real kids? Doctors warm up for surgery using simulations to lock in and “get loose”. I get it. Doctors using avatars to replicate bedside manners when they have to relate news of a terminal illness?
It’s soul-less. And teaching, like medicine, police work, nursing, DMV work, and on and on and on, if it’s ever going to be any good, must have soul.