Current Project

M&M Podcast #2: Bots and the Teacher Function

‘‘What would it look like if we imagine the teacher working in partnership with the code, and / or with artificial intelligence, to offer a new kind of teaching? I think we need to move away from understanding automated teaching as a response to some kind of deficit in teachers. Rather, we need to think about automation as being a chance to make teaching and learning radically better. I think that it is really useful to approach these questions from a non-anthropocentric position”

Bayne, S. & Jandric, P. 2017, ‘From anthropocentric humanism to critical posthumanism in digital education’ Knowledge Cultures, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 197-216. 

This quote we feel is emblematic of the spirit of what this podcast is becoming more about, this exploration of what could conceivably be a new kind of teaching, something that moves us beyond the binaries of teaching and technology, away from deficit models and neoliberal conceits of personalisation and into more speculative and robust forms of teaching functions, ones that “cannot necessarily be captured by an appeal to a (exclusively (my addition)) human centred notion of agency” (Braidotti 2013) but rather found in ‘assemblages’ of humans, automated agents, codes, and constraints.

Most of what is discussed emerges from the Expanding the Teacher Function project that Myles and I are both a part of, which emerged quite overtly from Sian Bayne’s Teacherbot project. The podcast itself is designed to be an honest appraisal of where we stand at the moment in our (and the project’s) thinking in relation to these speculative assemblages of teaching. We reserve the right to reverse turn, contradict, and just speculate in the expanse of a blue sky. We move towards tangible use cases and back pedal to speculate on ethics, complexity, and ‘contact time’ in short order.

So this second episode for the Michael and Myles (M&M) podcast explores the expansion of the ‘teacher function’ via bots. The ‘teacher function’ is becoming less exclusively a human enterprise but expanding to include ‘an assemblage of code, algorithm and teacher–student agency’ (Bayne 2015). The podcast speculates on that teacher function, the role of bots in potentially contributing to it, current bot deployments at work in HE, and the research currently being undertaken at the University of Edinburgh to identify possible use cases for bots. If interested in what we are talking about, her paper is a must read, as is Jen Ross’s paper that I refer to as well.

  • Bayne, S. (2015). Teacherbot: interventions in automated teaching. Teaching in Higher Education20(4), 455-467.
  • Ross, J. (2017). Speculative method in digital education research. Learning, Media and Technology42(2), 214-229.
M&M Podcast 2
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About Author

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

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