Rather, the esteemed expert in education technology is more concerned that educators are being funnelled into emulating AI-driven machines in their practice – and he is calling for a push back.

Speaking at the ACER Research Conference on August 6, Selwyn seized the chance to urge delegates to stand up and speak their professional worth to the world. 

“There is a political idea to get rid of teachers, particularly in the US,” he notes.

“The education community should be talking back, [sharing] ways that an expert teacher adds value. In education we don’t talk much about what a unique ‘teacher’ skill is.”

When talking about the future of education, and envisaging the ways in which technologies are likely to keep altering teaching and learning, Selwyn is razor sharp in his insights.

For starters, the professor in the Faculty of Education at Monash University believes it’s easy to descend into futuristic ‘hype’. That is, to make grand, seemingly inspirational statements that are in fact just “flag-waving, vacuous talks”.

“It’s very easy to appear to be profound about the future – but say absolutely nothing of substance,” he says.

Selwyn noted that at technology-focussed conferences, there is a general ‘call for action’ against schools. The education system is broken, the common rhetoric argues, and it needs to be re-invented ‘from the bottom up’.

Selwyn doesn’t agree.

“I don’t believe schools aren’t working,” he says bluntly.

Rather, the expert believes that most alternative schooling offerings, the likes of School in the Cloud and other self-directed, ‘personalised’ models, are failing in action. Some are even dangerous, and Selwyn is fearful about where this will lead us in the next decade.

This steady chipping away at schools in the public domain (think terms splashed about such as ‘factory model’, and ‘relics from an industrial era’) and the rise of tech-driven alternative learning models are working to create a ‘two-tier’ system that Selwyn is not enthused by.

“I can be sceptical but not cynical about the future,” he posits.

Turning his attention towards the key challenges facing our schools and society in the next decade, Selwyn ducks into his research that looks at schools’ environmental responsibilities in the face of mass technological consumption.

“…the idea of having a screen for every child … is not sustainable,” he notes.

"We simply don’t have enough natural resources to sustain the input and inevitable output of devices in our schools – and it’s time educators became proactive rather than reactive on this front, Selwyn adds.

Tech companies “think they can sell anything to teachers,” he adds, to quiet murmurs of agreement.

“Schools can take a societal lead … I think everyone in this room has a position of responsibility and has some power to enact change.”

Following the theme of ‘Preparing students for life in the 21st century: Identifying, developing and assessing what matters’, ACER’s event brought together educators and researchers sourced from across the world.

ACER Chief Executive Professor Geoff Masters AO reports this merging of expertise is crucial.

“Research Conference 2019 showed the vital importance of unpacking expert research for teachers and the education community. While we often hear references to skills and attributes required for life in the 21st century, it is important to understand the latest international evidence and what this means for schools,” he told EducationHQ.


Find out more about the ACER Research Conference here