From ‘Self-Driven’ Cars to ‘Self-Driven’ Classrooms

By Robert J. Harris

May 12, 2017

Today, innovators in the automobile industry are combining machine intelligence, robotics and advanced sensory systems with existing automotive technology to create ‘self-driven’ cars. These cars are capable of interacting with humans to safely navigate through their environment. Their standard features include: Forward Collision Avoidance, Lane Detection, Backup Cameras and Voice Recognition. There is already research showing that ‘self-driven’ cars have improved the quality of our driving experience and saved human lives.

Most importantly, today’s ‘self-driven’ cars still depend on humans. Where machine intelligence is installed, the machine learns from a human each time the human makes a course correction while the two are driving. In this regard, like earlier electric/fossil-fuel hybrids, ‘self-driven’ cars represent an early form of an interactive machine/human hybrid.  While continued research, development, and testing are still necessary to make fully autonomous cars available to consumers, considerable resources have already been devoted to this initiative and substantial progress has already been made.

Now, for the following exercise, I ask you to broadly apply the above conceptual framework of ‘self-driven’ cars to one of a ‘self-driven’ classroom. In doing so, please consider the following questions:

  • What would a Self-Driven Classroom (SDC) look like?
  • In what ways could a SDC be modeled after a ‘self-driven’ car?
  • What possible roles will the educator, student and intelligent machine play in a SDC?
  • What existing structures and learning systems do schools already have in place to implement SDCs?
  • What technologies would be employed in a SDC?
  • In what ways can SDCs improve the learning experiences of students, educators and machines?
  • In what subjects and at what grade-levels are SDCs practicable?
  • What are the advantages/disadvantages of the SDC model?
  • How will SDCs change school culture?
  • When machine learning surpasses human learning in the classroom, how will school leaders address the issue?

While there are many other questions that logically flow from the initial set of queries posed above, I am utilizing this forum to start a conversation about an innovation that will likely begin to disrupt the status quo in education within the next several years. While some educational leaders will see SDCs as an opportunity, others will see them as a threat. From either perspective, now is not the time to apply the brakes when innovating in education.

Robert J. Harris (@edudexterous) is an Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources.


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