A "phantom" tollbooth
There are a number of people I just don't see much of anymore...
- I don't see the toll booth operator when entering or leaving the airport parking lots anymore. My credit card talks to a machine on the way in and again on the way out. My only interaction is answering whether I want a receipt.
- I don't talk to check-in people at the airline counters anymore since I rarely check bags. My credit card talks to a terminal that prints out my boarding pass (if I've not already done so at home.)
- I am seeing fewer bank tellers and grocery clerks. My cash card talks to the ATM and to the cash register at the supermarket after I have scanned my own groceries.
- My son thinks I am telling tall tales when I tell him that I once had "people" who pumped my gas, washed my car windows, filled my tires and sometimes gave me a free tumbler as a gift when I went to a service station.
- I don't hear the voice of a human telephone operator, tech support or reservation clerks until I've waded through a half dozen phone menus. "Trends in Tasks Done by the U.S. Workforce 1969-1998 (1969=0)"
Dr. McLeod shared a chart similar to the one above in his keynote last Friday. (This one comes from Levy and Murnane's article "Education and the Changing Job Market" in the October 2004 issue of Educational Leadership.) My tollbooth operator and his kindred that have gone missing fall into the "Routine Cognitive Work" category. The information given and processes performed were all standardized - multiple choice, if you will. Any higher order problem-solving in the interaction usually required finding a supervisor.
So some questions...
- Who else in your life encounters has "gone missing?" Who might be next?
- Are teachers vulnerable? Can those who are only information dispensers, flash card holders, babysitters and multiple choice quiz givers be automated? One of Scott's possible futures scenarios was one teacher per 90 station computer lab with all students doing programmed instruction.
- How do we give our students experience in "Complex Communications" and "Expert Thinking" skills? If we are really paying attention to these skills, why do we still give objective tests over the recall of trivia and only test low level basic skills?
I keep thinking about a prediction made in the mid-90's by a federal DOE official that in the future, economically disadvantaged students will all have computers while the wealthy students will have human teachers.
If all educators don't attended to adding value as expert thinkers and complex communicators, rebelling against "teacher-proof the classroom" models, this future may be here sooner than one thinks.