Dan Pink and the Future of Teaching

On the way to NECC, I listened to the "live" version of Dan Pink's A Whole New Mind. More of a presentation than an overview of the groundbreaking book, it was thought provoking nonetheless - especially when considering Pink's theories and their implications for the future of education. I was particularly stirred by his references to the word routine (at 28:21 in the audio presentation):

Any kind of routine is going to disappear from this country. Period.
He continues by defining routine as any kind of work that can be reduced to a script, a formula, or a set of steps that can be delivered to produce a right answered - and states that if an action is routine, then it can be off-shored to inexpensive labor markets or automated by computers. Honestly, I found his logic to be rock-solid and was nodding my head continually throughout the hour-long presentation.

While he was expounding on the transient nature of routine, I couldn't help thinking about teachers. Having been a teacher for nearly ten years, I can attest to the fact that there are many things that teachers do, day in and day out that are monotonously routine. We routinely call roll. We (hopefully) follow a routine in disciplining problem students. And we have even trained our bodies to follow regularly scheduled bathroom breaks, each perfectly timed by the relieving sound of the school bell (it took me about two weeks every June to convince my body that I no longer had to visit the bathroom at 11:12 a.m.). Teachers live by the comforts of routine.

So what do Pink's theories hold in store for teachers? If his theories are true, then will the routine portions of a teacher's job one day be mechanized or outsourced to those willing to work at a lower financial rate? Calling roll, for example, could easily be automated using RFID or finger print scanners attached to each of the desks. Gathering homework could be (and currently is) collected using online drop-boxes. Even teaching lessons could be outsourced or automated (my entire Distance EdD is based upon this very premise - the teacher teaches an entire group of students, scattered throughout the state - one teacher, dozens of students, assignments and lectures often managed online, thousands of dollars saved). In writing this post I am realizing that Pink isn't actually theorizing about the future of education - he's describing the present.

In conclusion, what aspects of a teacher's work do you think could be automated or outsourced? Or better yet, what aspects do you think should be?

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