So what is the role of the teacher? What has it looked like and how is it changing? Let’s consider some of these questions.
What has the role of the teacher been? In the most basic sense, teachers have been the controllers of content—deciding what content is important, how it should be learned, how much can be learned in each grade level and how students should demonstrate that they have learned it. Just to be clear, content is not limited to just facts, dates and numbers. Content can include ideas, skills, analysis and critical thinking, but in the end, this role may be too restrictive and narrow for learners that are networked and connected in the ways that they are now and will be. Similar to a concern that Sir Ken Robinson presented in his video (previous mentioned), this risks marginalizing many of the ideas that learners value and believe to be important.
George Seimens (2010) presents a set of roles for teachers that he believes teachers should play in networked learning environments. He sees teachers as:
- Wayfinding and socially-driven sensemaking
- Persistent presence
He describes these roles in more detail in his article Teaching in Social and Technological Networks.
The role of the teacher as the way finder and socially-driven sense maker is valuable one. In this role, teachers are able to work with learners to help them make sense of the abundance of information students have access to through the internet. How can various tools on the internet be used to help students make sense of fragmented information? What are some of the benefits and drawbacks of various types of information in each situation? These are important questions that teachers are able to help learners ask and answer continually as they make sense of the information the find and collect.
As well, Seimens (2010) points out that social structures (such as social networks) serve as filters. As learners grow and prune their personal networks they can develop effective ways of filtering the (often overwhelmingly abundant) information. The learner can use their social network to filter resources and draw attention to important topics. In order for these networks to work effectively, the learner must be conscious of the need for diversity and should include information that offer critical or different perspectives. The teacher plays a role as a valuable part of this network.
Seimens, G. (2010, Feb. 16) Teaching in Social and Technological Networks. Retrieved from http://www.connectivism.ca/?p=220