Do you agree their roles are changing?
Whether or not I think educator’s roles are changing depends on the point of view of the educator. If you are a professor who believes that they “profess” the truth and ideas then it is up to the student to get what you say. If you are an instructor who teaches skills, maybe this change applies to you; maybe you investigate how to facilitate skill acquisition. Another factor in whether or not educators roles are changing is how responsive are educators to student needs?
Yes – clearly students today are not the same as students in previous generations. Several blogs and papers (Media Multitasking Among American Youth, Teens And Social Media, Defining “Creepy Treehouse”) have looked at how this generation functions on the internet. As an educator, I believe it should be your duty to use whatever format is necessary to enhance learning; a Hippocratic Oath for teachers. Similarly, part of the Hippocratic Oath that “acknowledg[es] that it is impossible for any single physician to maintain expertise in all areas. It also highlights the different historical origins of the surgeon and the physician“, an educator cannot maintain expertise in all areas of their field of study. As such, educators should go out of their way to find the knowledge experts in the field and bring them to the classroom, using educational technology and communication technology to do so. Much like how surgeons are specialists, guest speakers take those roles in our classrooms – guest lecturers. The physician’s role is played by the teacher/facilitator.
If so, what are appropriate responses?
Again, this all matters on your teaching philosophy. If the power of didactic lecturing is your preferred mode of knowledge dissemination then you won’t be affected by a paradigm shift as much as someone who thinks that the learner has a role in their own learning. One response that could occur and is not at all dependent on technology is to shift your personal role from teacher to facilitator – help students facilitate their own learning. Facilitated learning often leads to deeper understanding and comprehension of the subject matter. But, as Lisa states in her second paper for CCK08 “[a]ctive learning and facilitation creates a more participatory learning environment, but its basis is still in the learning of the individual via the method controlled by the instructor. It is ‘learner-centered’ but not ‘learner-directed’.” So really, two shifts need to occur for some educators. One change, from teacher-centered to learner-centered; then a second change from learner-centered to learner-directed.
Another shift that could occur is to recognize that students are generally more comfortable with new technologies – make sure that alternative options are available to a student who might not put the same effort into an essay as he or she would into a YouTube video, flash presentation or some alternative form of analysis. A Skype conversation with an industry or technological leader may bring greater learning that still matches pre-determined learning outcomes. This could provide more learning than a simple essay. This customization may not increase educator workload during the marking phase, but it does demand that the educator think in creative and complex ways that may be outside of their norms.
What are impediments to change?
The main impediment to change is the educators themselves. Many educators have a vested, personal interest in the power they command at the front of the classroom. For these educators, lecturing is a display of their power, their knowledge and their position in life. Just looking at the language of that sentence, the implied ownership of knowledge and even the arrogance that didactic educators own something like knowledge that is so nebulous and ever changing is to someone like me, a ridiculous statement.
The other major roadblock to change is the administrative power that cannot see how to capitalize on a new learning theory such as connectivism. People who administer in higher education institutions cannot figure out ways to keep money flowing in – even though current classroom deliveries are lacking in the methods those students want them in. Modern students require more flexible options – some want online delivery, some want different hours of instruction, some want credit for what they already know. The current models in most higher education settings are incapable of that level of flexibility.
Beyond that Bob Bell states in this Moodle discussion that K-12 learning is affected by safety issues. Brookfield talks about safety in the classroom in his book The Skillful Teacher (p. 94) and discusses how one way he deals with it is by letting students know what’s coming. I can’t describe a better way to help students discover new learning than by letting them know what might be out there. Certainly, that requires a maturity about others’ viewpoints and beliefs, which may be absent in the K-12 classroom.
Bell, B. (2008, November 9). Changing Role: Fast Forward To The Past. CCK08 Moodle Forums. Retrieved November 9, 2008, from http://ltc.umanitoba.ca/moodle/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=1064#p6758
Brookfied, S. (2006). The skillful teacher. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Lane, L. (2008, November 6). Paper #2: Insurgence for Emergence. Lisa’s CCK08 WordPress Blog. Retrieved November 9, 2008, from http://lisahistory.wordpress.com/2008/11/06/paper-2-insurgence-for-emergence/.
Wikipedia (2008, November 7). Retrieved November 9, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocratic_Oath