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Man vs Machine: How Do We Learn Best

In the last fifty years, technology has revolutionised the teacher-pupil dynamic. However, despite its popularity, machine-based learning has created a divide between those who praise the use of technology in the classroom and those who favour more traditional forms of teaching.

Here, we weigh up both sides of the debate, presenting you the arguments for and against each learning style.

Emotional complexity

One benefit of face-to-face learning is the emotional relationship created between the teacher and student. Face-to-face learning enables the teacher to read a pupil`s body language and facial expressions, allowing them to adjust their teaching to suit the pupil`s needs. This creates a dynamic, emotional relationship which can enhance learning. Often, a positive relationship will encourage the student to work harder, revise and succeed. It also creates trust, meaning the pupil will be comfortable expressing feelings of uncertainty or doubt, letting the teacher then expand upon that topic.

On the other hand, machine-based learning has a cold exterior; one that is unempathetic toward the pupil`s emotion. Although this unemotional relationship has drawbacks, it can mean the pupil is more focused on the task at hand. Concentration may be higher as they have no emotional attachment toward the technology, whereas if a pupil dislikes a teacher they will be more likely to become distracted. Technology`s unsympathetic edge enables the relationship to be objective and solely focussed on the learning at hand.

Knowledge expansion

The growth of the internet has increased knowledge networks and allowed information to become easily accessible to almost everyone. This has a great benefit when teaching, as learning through the internet has empowered people of all abilities and backgrounds to access information that wouldn`t have been possible in the not-so-distant past. The wealth of data available at the click of a button also means teachers can easily and affordably expand their knowledge.

On a more negative note, the internet`s accessibility has enabled people to upload and distribute a great deal of fake and misleading information. This false information often lacks reliable fact-checking and is largely opinion-based, exposing pupils to information with a bias or agenda.

Teachers and tutors follow an approved curriculum that is nationally taught and government approved. It is not only factually accurate but compulsory, ensuring pupils learn a range of key subjects.


Perhaps one of the major benefits of machine-based learning is the price. Apps and other online teaching programs are generally more affordable than face-to-face learning. Programs can be updated with new knowledge quickly and efficiently, and many online courses cost nothing to attend. Apps such as Duolingo are free to download and are constantly being updated with new tasks and challenges. They can also be reused every year, teaching multiple pupils in a cost-effective manner.

Despite the lower initial cost, the complexity of issues that run alongside online programs means that virtual learning can cause several issues. For instance, learning how to use the programs, advice on what programs to use, and help with technical difficulties may all be required by students. Therefore, in some cases, a teacher would still be needed to provide support for using learning technology.

Tracking and recording

Tracking and recording a pupil`s learning is integral to their development. Technology allows educational establishments to easily track the progress of many pupils in one database, including specific factors such as how many wrong answers the pupil inputted or the time taken to complete a question. Programs such as MyMaths track the pupil`s progress across different mathematical puzzles and games, keeping a record for both the pupil and teacher to refer to.

However, much like many of the other arguments against technical learning, these online programs work better with physical teachers to help guide students through the process. Much of the data collected by these programs will need interpreting and evaluating. Face-to-face teaching allows the teacher to see the pupils progress, whether that`s on a computer or notebook, and adjust their teaching to accommodate the pupil`s skill level.

Final thoughts

Overall, there are many pros and cons to both machine-based and face-to-face learning. They both help the pupil advance in different ways and so using them together may be the best option.

Teaching or tutoring face-to-face will help build a connection whilst online resources will give you access to affordable programs on a huge selection of topics. For this reason, using a mixture of techniques gives students the best chance at succeeding.

Maths Tutors 4 Me have a wide choice of tutors that are experienced with both traditional and technology driven learning techniques. From KS1 right through to degree level, we can put you in touch with subject specialist tutors that are available in your area. When you use our service, we email you a free list of tutors so you can contact them yourself, reducing overheads and making our prices very competitive.

Find out more about why you should choose Maths Tutors 4 Me here, or start building your free list now.