While people often think of automation as a fraught industrial story, wherein robots replace factory workers in a struggle for relevance, it’s important to understand that automation is simply the process of a machine—software or hardware—doing repetitive tasks on behalf of humans.
Automation can therefore be incredibly beneficial, especially when machines can relieve people of time-consuming and irritating manual work, thereby improving productivity. It’s even better if machines can do that work faster and more cheaply than humans.
If history is an indicator, then the big-picture benefits of automation are worth pursuing. On the hardware side, think washing machines; for software, consider email—despite its flaws, it has numerous advantages over snail mail—and search engines.
Machines are not well suited to creative thinking or emotive work, but they’re very good at certain jobs that follow a set of explicit rules, even if those rules are complex. Workflow tasks, bulk communication, and logging are all good areas with repetitive steps governed by logic that must be done en masse.
In the sales industry, for instance, Salesforce and Hubspot have automated steps for outreach to prospective customers, saving time for salespeople and improving their ability to close deals.
In education, there are many manual, repetitive tasks that educators undertake every day that are ripe for automation. The goal is to save teachers and administrators time—in a period in which they report being burnt out and overwhelmed—so that they can shift time to more high-value endeavors like small-group instruction.
Here are some specific areas in K12 classrooms, schools, and districts (and higher education) where automation is leading to or could lead to significant improvements:
Automation should not be undertaken blindly, since there are important considerations.
First and foremost, education automation tools must protect student privacy and student data.
Second, as mentioned above, we believe automation is a tool to support, not replace teachers. Given the deficiencies observed with virtual learning, maintaining human interaction in schools is essential.
Finally, we do not advocate for the removal of human judgment and teacher feedback, which some automated systems promote.
Teachers’ time is incredibly valuable, and we should treat it as such. That’s why Schoolytics designs automations that save teachers time, supports relationships with students, helps build knowledge, and empowers smart decision-making.