Welcome to class, this app will be your teacher

In becoming a teacher, I’ve lost my mind…but found my heart and soul.”  

Students looking at the Museum’s mobile app

When was the last time you downloaded an app to learn something? This month? This week? Today? Education is one the largest app categories on the App Store, and the advent of COVID has only increased the number of educational apps that assist with remote learning. The trend of online learning has increased in recent years thanks to the advent of machine learning and big data —an increased amount of data means recommendations and attuned instruction can be provided to users based on their previous behavior. This generated enormous success for software companies: apps like Duolingo, Coursera, Lynda, etc. have become household names, and the companies behind them became multi-billion-dollar enterprises.

At the same time, the number of education majors in the United States has decreased over 20% in the last years, one the greatest declines in all majors. The salary of a teacher, especially primary education, is one of the lowest in the nation. So much so that 1 in 6 teachers need to take another job to make ends meet. It is a difficult, stressful job with an enormous workload and little to no recognition.

If the success of educational applications are increasing, why is the number of people who live for education declining? What has happened that’s caused our society to shift the responsibility of learning, one the most fundamental aspects of being human, from teachers, to software?

Like an artist that draws lines and ovals to ketch a painting, I won’t be answering this question fully, but rather hint at where the answer may lie. This will be forthcoming in my next post…

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