By: Niel Nielson, PhD, Chairman of the Lippo Education Initiatives
While the world continues moving toward technology-infused learning models, one question keeps popping up that we here at Dew Interactive take very seriously — Where does the instructor fit into all this? It’s a good question.
There is a fear that technology could replace teachers, instructors and professors entirely, and that online learning and classrooms could function without anyone at the helm. And even if they were present, there is the fear that the relational element, the human element, would be diminished, if not completely removed.
I don’t think these concerns are entirely baseless, but I also don’t believe any of them are going to come to fruition. And that’s because I don’t believe it’s possible to remove the student-teacher relationship and still educate students effectively. Technology will never be good enough to replace a teacher completely. I do, however, believe the role of a teacher is about to change.
Maybe the best way to understand how teaching is going to change is to understand how learning is going to change.
I like the way Chute, Thompson and Hancock break it down in The McGraw-Hill Handbook of Distance Learning (New York: McGraw Hill, 1999):
20th Century Learning 21st Century Learning
Individual Learning Team Learning
Student as Listener Student as Collaborator
Instructor as Source Instructor as Guide
Stable Content Dynamic Content
Evaluation and Testing Performance
In the new model, the instructor becomes decentralized, and the student takes center stage. The job of the instructor is no longer to be a “presenter” or “performer,” but rather a facilitator, a guide, even a collaborator.
Claudia Kost, an associate professor at Alberta University, writes:
Instructors are no longer the sole providers of information nor do they carry the entire burden of instruction. They design activities and tasks for learners but are not responsible for the product. Instructors take on the role of “architects” and “resource persons.” So. Thus far we have them becoming “facilitators,” “guides,” “collaborators,” “architects,” and “resource persons.”
The point is this: In their new role, these “leaders in our learning” put the control back into the hands of the students. They loosen the reins. Learning becomes more about process than product, and teachers are the ones who keep the process on the rails. It’s all very Socratic. But I don’t pretend the transition is going to feel completely natural to all educators. After all, not all teachers want to be decentralized. Not all teachers want to loosen the reins. It’s not because they’re power hungry. Instead, I believe it’s because instructor-centered education has always been the model. It’s what they know.