Shelley really started something with our conversation around Leading Curiosity vs. The Guide on the Side – Part 1.  I’m curious about the future of public education for our students.  Will the American classroom be recognizable in 10-15 years?  If not, will that be a bad thing?  Where might we choose to proceed with caution?

Have you heard of the “uncanny valley“?  It describes the natural reaction of disgust and even primal fear we experience when we interact with a robot that was created to look and move like a real human.  Technology is so advanced that robotics engineers can almost convince us that their creations ARE humans… almost.  We become uncomfortable because the robots or CGI characters look human, but on second glance we know that they are not quite right.  That stirs up discomfort in us.  They creep us out to our core and we can’t quite explain it.

But wait… it isn’t logical.

They are only robots and movie characters.

There is no immediate danger.

Nonetheless, this is a very real biological human reaction.

Our humanity says, “This is not good.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.”

Are there some details within the speed of our changing educational system that your humanity sometimes questions as well?  It is hard to specify why we feel weird at first, yet, there it is – creeping us out to the core.

How does the uncanny valley apply to the conversation about “Leading Curiosity vs. The Guide on the Side”?   And isn’t being a “guide on the side” a desireable thing, often juxtaposed with being the “sage on the stage”?

I’m wondering if the “guide on the side” concept (one of a class monitor instead of a professional teacher) as Shelley described in Part 1 feels like the uncanny valley of education to me because it is ALMOST teaching… but not quite.  It is ALMOST what our children deserve (differentiation, learning from the best online resources)… but not quite ALL they need (like the humanity of real teachers who lead through relationships, using their craft to innovate, driving inquiry).  And this is especially uncanny to me if the “guide” is a virtual teacher or the mode is a prescriptive learning path via technology for the majority of a child’s day.  I haven’t seen this yet first hand, but it feels like it is coming.

My humanity as a parent says, “This is not quite right.  I’m afraid.  I’m very afraid.”

There is nothing wrong inherently with virtual learning, individualized tech-enhanced instruction and the like.  It is logical that we would capitalize on virtual teacher collaboration and use our regularly doubling collective information bank that is the vast internet.  This is all good practice… until it gets creepy…

…creepy like Asimov’s future computerized teachers in “The Fun They Had” (1964) which he prophesied to be housed in children’s bedrooms, replacing those ancient schools where kids actually went to the same building and learned and played together.

Now right there I just tumbled into the valley.  For me, it is simply not okay to think about losing the social, inquisitive, collaborative nature of schools – where the HUMAN local teacher is the expert on students’ needs.  Extinguishing that norm would be going too far!

“Tell it to me in Star Wars.” you say?

check out this video…

“I’m scared!   Get me outa there!”  

“You’re in the valley now.  And it’s impossible to get out.”  Thank you, “30 Rock”/NBC Universal… you get me. 🙂

Back to reality… how close are we to losing schools as we know it?  As David Theune commented in the previous post, where is our noble profession heading?

I wonder how long we, as a society, will value an educational system that relies on the humanity and craft of professionals to best meet our children at their individual points of need?  Don’t our kids deserve this?  It feels like anything less will be a compromise on the backs of our children and, in turn, a cost to our society.

How might we proceed with caution?


Comment and share your thoughts!

What crosses over into the uncanny valley for you when you think of our brave new world to come?


And if this is particularly interesting to you, give this recent NY Times article a read!  Other professional fields have been wondering similar things.






  Is the teaching profession in danger of extinction? Professionals today are saying that in 10-15 years the role of teacher as we know it may cease to exist. (Michael Godsey) In its place would be a “guide” who would answer tech questions and troubleshoot problems. Other than that, there is no need for a teacher Read More →

Have you ever noticed this time of the year to be full of chatter?  Staff are inherently curious about what next year will look like.  Who will be teaching 5th grade?  What will they do about the open World Literature position?  Will a teaching position be reduced or reorganized?  The speculation goes on and on. Read More →

There have been times in my professional life when I was going through the motions. I put one foot in front of the other and smiled all the way. I wasn’t depressed, I was just more numb than other times. I was unfocused. My mind didn’t seem fully awake. Then there are times when my Read More →