I agree with the week 10 readings that the role of the educator is changing dramatically. In literacy we have long emphasized that while the school system and teachers are important for the education of the children, in fact the family has a profound impact on a child’s success at school. “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents” would be one familiar refrain in literacy.
In my forays into high education I have often been miffed at the common mantra of that teachers should not be the “sage on the stage” but rather that they should be the “guide on the side”. This mantra has seemed unassailable but to myself I’ve often thought, “But I don’t know anything about this topic, I’m taking this course to learn from the teacher, not to teach myself or learn from other unknowledgeable students. This teacher has a lot of knowledge to impart – please be the sage on the stage!”.
It was interesting to read Stephen Downes’ article on “The Role of the Educator” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-downes/the-role-of-the-educator_b_790937.html) where educator roles were well fleshed out, instead of glossed over and diminished to just the “guide on the side”. These new roles are dynamic and interesting – for both the student and the educator!
In adult literacy here in Ontario we have an excellent case study of how technology has indeed created a shift in the role of the educator. The Ontario government funds an online learning program of studies called e-Channel (see the Learning Hub at: http://www.learninghub.ca/Home.aspx). Students all across Ontario improve their literacy skills online. There is standard self-study, online course content which learners work through at their own pace. They are assigned an off-site distance education teacher and they often also have a tutor in their home location to support their work as well.
I agree that the role of the educator has expanded and has become actually richer, rather than being reduced to a mere “guide on the side”. Stephen Downes identifies 23 possible roles that the educator can assume in the new world of education to support online students. These roles include the modeling the learning process, collecting resources and materials to support learning, organizing learning, championing ideas and beliefs, building networks, coordinating and connecting people, critiquing and questioning, providing technical support, mentoring students, and many other roles.
Different teachers might assume the roles that they are most comfortable with, or that their students are in most need of in order to effectively learn. Students as well vary in their needs, some might need mentoring while others might need tech support and still others might need a champion, or a critic, or help connecting with others.
We have a whole new world ahead of us where we can teach and support learners in more effective and authentic ways! I think it is very exciting!
The picture I am posting today is for me a great reminder that the best teachers are the people who take the time to teach you about things they are passionate about. This is a snowdrop, and my old, old friend, who died this week of Alzheimer’s, always took the time when I was a young child to teach me about the important things in life: how to canoe in rough waters, how to identify bird calls, how to navigate by the North Star and how to identify wildflowers. RIP HT.