Rethinking How We Support Teachers

A call to action for edtech.

GUEST COLUMN | by Jason Katcher

ANDRES RAMOS

The weight on teachers’ shoulders is heavier than ever. According to Canva, educators are clocking over 50 hours per week on average, yet they spend less than half of this time directly interacting with students. This relentless pressure has led to a disturbing trend: over half (53%) of teachers feel overwhelmed, impacting their well-being and their ability to teach effectively.

These statistics are alarming:

  • Missed workdays: 55% of teachers are taking more unscheduled absences.
  • Decreased patience: Nearly half (45%) report having less patience with students.
  • Burnout: Over a third (34%) are losing interest, leading to a decline in instructional quality.

 

For those of us in educational technology, while we may not be able to directly alter union structures, salaries, or schedules, we have a powerful opportunity to make a significant impact.

‘For those of us in educational technology, while we may not be able to directly alter union structures, salaries, or schedules, we have a powerful opportunity to make a significant impact.’

By developing products and platforms that address these initial challenges, we can empower teachers and create a more positive classroom environment.

This is where AI Comes In

This is where Artificial Intelligence (AI) comes into play. AI-powered tools can handle administrative tasks, personalize learning experiences, and provide teachers with valuable data to tailor their instruction. Remember when creating a custom lesson plan would take hours, days, even weeks? Now we are talking about seconds. These tools act as supplements, not replacements—much like vitamins to exercise. Our founders at Merlyn Mind, an AI voice assistant for teachers, recognized AI’s potential during their decades of research at IBM Watson for Education. They realized that AI would never replace teachers as the essential human elements of curiosity and empathy are irreplaceable in optimizing a student’s learning experience. This should assuage any concerns about the demise of the teaching profession. In fact, it heralds a revitalization of a profession that needs its core values now more than ever.

Have the assistants on your phone, at home, and in your car made your days better or worse? If it’s the former, then why not extend this affordance to our classrooms? According to data from McKinsey, teachers can save an average of 13 hours per week using smart AI solutions—equivalent to adding six days of instruction per month! Furthermore, a study from UC-Irvine, supported by Digital Promise, found that after seven weeks of using a digital classroom assistant, teachers were 61% less stressed with their technology, enabling more active learning and less time on administrative tasks. Imagine the increased impact teachers could have with that much additional time and the ability to be more present with their students.

We Have Been Profoundly Moved

We have been profoundly moved by stories of teachers in wheelchairs and students with learning disabilities who have harnessed our products to level the playing field of learning and instruction. Imagine the transformative power of enabling teachers to create fulfilling, impactful, and collaborative experiences, free from the constraints of their computers. AI and voice technology have emerged as great equalizers in the classroom, empowering every educator and student to thrive.

Ultimately though, this is all about the students. No amount of classroom technology can compensate for an overly stressed teacher. John Hattie’s work, Visible Learning, reveals that the number one factor impacting student outcomes is collective teacher efficacy. Not only is it the top factor, but its effect is more than twice as significant as other important factors like scaffolding, summarization, and effort. If digital assistants in classrooms lead to more effective teachers, and teacher efficacy is the leading factor in improved student outcomes, then it stands to reason that digital assistants will lead to better student results.

The Ripple Effect This Could Have

Moreover, let’s not underestimate the ripple effect this could have on the broader educational landscape. By alleviating administrative burdens and reducing stress, we enable teachers to focus more on innovative teaching methods and student engagement. This, in turn, fosters a more dynamic and effective learning environment. The future of education hinges on our ability to integrate technology seamlessly into our classrooms. Now is the time to embrace AI as a vital ally in our mission to enhance education. Let’s champion this change and make a lasting difference.

As the school year comes to a close, let’s take this time to reflect. How can we leverage technology to improve the classroom atmosphere? How many low-value tasks can be replaced with high-value ones through AI and voice assistance? How can we increase the connections between our teachers and students? 

AI is not a panacea, but it’s a heck of a vitamin. Teachers need our support now more than ever. It’s time to step up and show them we care.

Jason Katcher is VP Strategic Channel AI Partnerships at Merlyn Mind. He previously worked at Google and Dropbox Education. Connect with Jason on LinkedIn.

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