Will the NFL Ever Use Robots, Not Humans?

If you’ve ever tried to explain the past to a child, it is hard to make them comprehend how humankind could have ever been so lacking. My nine year old, Oliver, has never had to tune in at a specific time to watch a television show, has never had to wait more than 5 or 10 seconds to Google the answer to his most pressing questions, and he doesn’t even recognize that having four computers, four cell phones, and a printer that is also a fax machine and scanner is miraculous. Given the explosion of technology, what will our grandchildren say to us? What about our current way of life will technology solve or change for us? I plan to pose this question to my students next month, and here’s how I’m going to hook them into a nuanced conversation about the way technology will change their world.

The Future of The NFL

I plan to hook my students into a conversation that is sure to elicit some strong opinions, especially from the athletes in the room. Watch this. Watch it again. It hurts, right? Now that we know the dangers of concussion, what if we could have football games that were so technologically advanced that we would not need to worry about head injuries anymore?

What if we removed the people from the field, and instead let them play virtual reality style, with their moves linked to a robot, like these created by codeclubprojects.org? Sounds impossible, right? Nope. Virtual reality is already being used in Game Day simulations. Not sold? Check out Atlas here. His moves don’t seem that far removed from a celebration in the endzone to me, given that he can land a backflip easily. Movies have long toyed with a robotics revolution, and movies such as Big Hero 6 certainly humanize robots and toy with the sinister applications that humans can come up with.

It seems that everywhere we turn, we are being asked to integrate technology, teach coding, and use data derived from predictive assessments to inform our teaching. Getting Smart’s recently released publication Ask About AI  and new microsite on the Future of Work are incredibly helpful lens for all for these innovations. There are great resources to give our students the opportunity to reflect on what role technology has in their lives, as well as explore how their futures are going to be impacted.

The thing that makes me the most nervous about technology and leaning into the breakneck speed of advancements is that we can’t even begin to imagine what is ahead. For example, I teach 8th grade, and back when I was in their shoes 30 years ago, I couldn’t have imagined the most basic fixture of any shopping mall: a cell phone kiosk. Expand that to the internet, wireless printers, iPads, and the like. If I can’t even imagine it, how can I even prepare my students for the next big thing (that probably doesn’t exist yet)?

If this line of thinking is exhausting you, you are not alone. The invasion of technology into every aspect of our lives (think FitBit measuring how you sleep) can leave us overwhelmed, especially as educators. So, instead of worrying about what we don’t know, let’s concentrate on what we do understand about the conditions that are best for innovation and creativity. Let’s introduce challenging concepts and pose open-ended questions (watch a great webinar on this topic here) that spur important conversations. Of course I have no way of knowing, but I like to think that someone sitting in our rotating chair discussion (explained here) will remember a snippet of our conversation,  and invent something that will so revolutionize the world that my grandchildren won’t be able to imagine the world without it.

Amber Chandler

Amber Chandler is a middle school teacher at Frontier Middle School in Hamburg, NY.

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