Teachers Changing the Way We Read, Write, Think, and Live
Will Richardson suggests in his post on teachers as master learners, that teachers need to move off the center stage within classroom dynamics. They should no longer occupy the only position of expert within the classroom because with the advent of technology and information, students are doing their fact checking in real time. Knowledge is available at exponential rates. Instead teachers need to model learning for their students. What Richardson argues, is that essential to contemporary classrooms is a shift in educators’ roles. Teachers, filling the role that Vygotsky described as a “facilitator” of knowledge, need to be effective communicators and be able to spell out for students how they themselves process new information.
Out with the old, in with the new
Adapting classrooms to 21st century digital literacies inherently changes the role of the teacher. It is impossible to teach all of the knowledge that is now available; teachers are no longer the experts in a setting where children merely need to “google” their answers.
As educators, we must admit to ourselves and to our students that we don’t know everything; instead, we must continue learning to adapt as our world changes around us. Isn’t this just some common sense here? The idea that we need to change our educational system is not new. John Dewey is known for having said “if we teach today, as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.” Classrooms have maintained a status quo for over 100 years, where the teacher sits at the head of the classroom, presenting all of the vast knowledge he or she knows to students. In many ways, my own personal experience with education looked like that of my grandparents’. The teacher maintained control of knowledge and distributed it to the students.
In today’s world, knowledge is not infallible. The amount of information available in today’s world has exploded exponentially. Ideas are tested by competing research, and they are supported or disproved regularly. In contemporary classrooms, we need to demonstrate to our students how to most effectively and critically examine information. Instead of presenting students with “knowledge”, teachers must adapt to grant students access to different resources, and show them how we, as critical thinkers, accept or reject the information presented within those resources.
How to move forward
So why is there a problem? For so many educators, in a lifelong quest to obtain degrees and certifications, and eventually careers, we push aside our joy for learning, and are tempted to turn our brains off once those goals have been achieved. On our worst days, we forget that knowledge in today’s world really is fallible. We forget that in all of our schooling, there was never really one right answer, and that the goal of education is to provide students with tools for navigating ideas. We run away from using technology in the classroom because we didn’t grow up with it. In doing so, we short-change our students by quashing joy in learning. We are educating digital natives. Even though we may not be familiar with it, we must align ourselves to digital environments. We have to be able to make mistakes and learn from them! And we must remember that, just like knowledge, we are also fallible. It is the human condition to continue to question that which has gone before us.
Eric Patnoudes argues that “the role of the teacher is evolving from having students answer every question, to teaching them how to question every answer.” We should be changing our methods of education; instead of relying on the teacher as the expert, bring those experts into the classroom. Instead of teacher-centered instruction, we need student-centered inquiry.
Change is difficult. The hardest part is getting started. What Richardson shows us is that we have the opportunity to reignite the passion that brought us into education. Educators have the opportunity to become learners again. We have the opportunity to reimagine the future with our students, to embrace new tools for imagining that future, and to work alongside our students to solve the puzzles of the world.