The Human Element: Necessary or an Add-On?

In Humanizing Education’s Algorithms, Mubeen (2016) begins by relating an instance where he analyzed a student’s academic performance patterns, based upon a computer program (algorithm) designed for just that purpose.  What the algorithm did not take into account was the human element.  This caused the analysis to be way off mark.  The student’s excellent marks, especially in math, belied the fact he was homeless and had access to a computer at the local library only twice a week.

Further, what has technology relegated teachers to become?  Are we lecturers and dispensers of information only, or do we still have the mandate to give our students the human touch, that element of community not created by machines or apps?  Mubeen goes on the say, “An algorithmic approach is not sufficient to serve our students. Joshua has met with success because his teachers are active agents in his learning journey.” (Mubeen 2016).  The article’s impetus is that while programs and such are fine and perhaps necessary, they alone are not enough to create and maintain an environment of learning whereby students may become, and remain, successful.  The teacher is there and must be aware of contingencies that computers and programs are not able to handle from a purely subjective point of view.

Basically, and to be guilty of re-stating, the thrust of this article is that we can only really make sense of the learning process if we take into consideration the human element.  Algorithms are wonderful tools for what they do, but can an algorithm insert the human quality?  We have discussed this before during our time studying AI and robots, etc.  The process, or the machine, can mimic performance, but can it mimic intent? Apathy? Motivation?  this are questions that educators must address beyond the technological tools available.

Mubeen, J. (2016) Humanizing Education’s Algorithms. EdsurgeNewsJune 10, 2016


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