Thomas Arnett: Amplify the Teacher Effect with Technology

Erik EllefsenInnovation


As someone who espouses innovation in Education I’ve always been skeptical of the technocrats who push the cure-all that technology should be for Education. My qualms have always been twofold, first technology as the replacement for the relationship between teacher and student and second the lack of relationship between learners in a communal drive for some sort of corporate and collaborative knowledge and experience.

This was the impetus to writing a blog in 2015 entitled Innovation and the Digical School where I was pondering some ideas about the mesh between the physical and digital worlds by musing:

I haven’t fully worked out what a digical school will or could be because I think each will be unique to the context in which it operates; however, I do know that there are already schools further along the path to integrating new digital tools with traditional physical spaces. Likewise, I think digical schools are less of a revolution in education and more of an evolution to a new reality. Lastly, unlike some of my more Luddite friends, I believe that these types of schools will be able to create synergies in productivity bringing about greater dynamism to our schools and profession.

Conversation with Thomas Arnett: Amplifying and Magnifying the Teacher Effect

[podbean resource=”episode=huvy7-83dd61″ type=”audio-rectangle” height=”100″ skin=”1″ btn-skin=”107″ share=”1″ fonts=”Helvetica” auto=”0″ download=”0″ rtl=”0″]

This led me to a conversation with Thomas Arnett of the Christensen Institute whom I heard speak at the Learning Forward conference this past December. I was greatly intrigued as I had not heard a Silicon Valley innovator talk so meaningfully about the necessity of maintaining the human nature of our profession, yet at the same time insistent upon using technology more effectively to amplify the quality of the teacher. Tom states in a recent article,

My hope—and the focus of my recent paper on this topic—is to shift the narrative of “teachers vs. machines” toward a more productive conversation. We need to start talking more about the best ways to integrate technology and teaching in order to amplify teachers’ impact.

Tom also states in “Teaching in the Machine Age”,

Great teachers are the most valuable resource in our education system. And expert teachers’ work is unlikely to be reduced to standardized procedures or automated algorithms anytime soon. Yet, ensuring that every student has access to excellent teaching is not a trivial task. Fortunately, as innovations simplify and automate distinct aspects of teaching, both effective and less-effective teachers will see their capabilities enhanced by computers.

In our conversation we chat about:

  • how technology is and can be better used to increase teacher effectiveness,
  • how technology can have a positive impact on lessening the teacher shortage,
  • how blended and personalized learning can best be understood and utilized, and
  • a prediction for 2018.


  • Erik Ellefsen

    Erik Ellefsen is a CACE Senior Fellow and the Director of Networks and Improvement at the Baylor University’s Center for School Leadership. He also serves as Senior Fellow for Cardus, hosts Digital Education (a podcast providing engaging conversations with some of the most innovative education leaders), and is a leading collaborator and author of the Mindshift and Future Ready projects.