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In the current push to use new technologies in the area of teaching and learning, perhaps it is time to take a step back and reflect on the pedagogical pros and cons of such efforts. In this issue of CDTL Brief, we present several viewpoints on the topic of Fundamental Teaching Skills in an IT Age.

March 1999, Vol. 2 No. 2 Print Ready ArticlePrint-Ready
Why IT Can Never Replace The Lecturer
Assoc Prof Winston Seah Kar Heng
Department of Mechanical & Production Engineering
Faculty of Engineering

IT, when used for the purpose of teaching and learning, is able to perform some functions that lecturers are unable to fulfill. For example in engineering, animated examples of certain machinery can be demonstrated to students without having to visit the actual mechanical plant. All kinds of graphics, both in static and dynamic forms, can be displayed, somewhat akin to how Disney cartoons are made. Students can still communicate with lecturers after office hours, as well as with each other, by using IT facilities. Consequently, education is increasingly being freed from the confines of the classroom.

As IT can be used in almost endless ways, does this imply that the role of the lecturer is henceforth diminished? In my opinion, lecturers are still irreplaceable, no matter how advanced and powerful IT may become. Fundamentally, the lecturer is a human being, and only a human being can inspire another human being. As a living, thinking being, the lecturer can be a mentor who gives advice and expert counsel, a friend who communicates on equal terms emotionally and empathises with students in times of difficulty. In contrast, is it possible for students to identify with a robot, computer, or some inanimate system in the same way?

Furthermore, as an invention of human beings, IT programs are limited in scope and content by their respective designers as well as require regular maintenance, updates and revision by man. This is unlike the human brain that can store virtually a limitless amount of information and perform complex functions in an innovative manner. Consequently, there is no teaching program that is so comprehensive or flexible enough to be able to answer all the questions and needs of students.

Therefore, the lecturer is an indispensable commodity that cannot be replaced by IT. Yet, he/she should try to take advantage of IT by investing time and effort to learn as much as possible about its possibilities so that the latter can serve him/her whenever the need arises, in the same way as a servant serves the master. Since a servant should never be greater then the master, so IT should never be superior to those who use it.

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Inside this issue
Helping Students Learn in the IT Age
Why IT Can Never Replace The Lecturer
Computer Technology at NUS: Some Reflections
IT Showcase
Fundamental Teaching Skills in an IT Age
Is IT It?