We need teachers more than ever!

Will education change because of technology? Will the role of teachers and the classroom change with technology? Short answer; absolutely. I think before we can sit down and discuss exactly how technology will change, we need to begin with understanding the effects technology is and can have on the brain and learning. That is the future. The area of neuroscience, in particular, how the working parts of memory are reacting to information being delivered via technology. As Carr states, “The depth of our intelligence hinges on our ability to transfer information from working memory, the scratch pad of consciousness, to long-term memory, the mind’s filing system,” The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains, 2011

Throughout history, there have been advances in technological tools, which have had great impacts on learning and the brain. For example, when the book was first introduced it required long, focused attention which promoted greater retention and deeper understanding. It is being argued that the internet is shifting away from focused attention and deeper understanding to a more rapid, shallow, broad scanning of information or , “the Internet encourages the rapid, distracted sampling of small bits of information from many sources”. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, Carr, 2011

If there are impacts which are starting to be uncovered and slowly understood, then the question regarding education could be, “how do we evolve with these changes?”  I think one way to evolve is to engage in dialogue using relevant, up to date information. For example, if the half-life of knowledge or, “ the time span from when knowledge is gained to when it becomes obsolete. Half of what is known today was not known 10 years ago. The amount of knowledge in the world has doubled in the past 10 years and is doubling every 18 months according to the American Society of Training and Documentation (ASTD). To combat the shrinking half-life of knowledge, organizations have been forced to develop new methods of deploying instruction.” Why are we reading resources from 2004 or even earlier? According to the half-life of knowledge as a by-product of the internet, then that resource is completely useless. To be able to intelligently discuss the future of education and technology and their integration, then we need resources on the cutting edge of that discussion.

Also, the argument that the classroom is becoming obsolete as well as the role of teachers, is not the right argument. The classroom is simply a structure. What happens in the classroom is the key. How we see learning, how we choose to engage students, assess students or try to make learning relevant are the real questions and issues. I think if a classroom has learning opportunities which are “(1) personalized; (2) safe and secure; (3) inquiry-based; (4) student-directed; (5) collaborative; (6) interdisciplinary; (7) rigorous and hands-on; (8) embodying a culture of excellence and high expectations; (9) environmentally conscious; (10) offering strong connections to the local community and business; (11) globally networked; and (12) setting the stage for lifelong learning”.Prakash Nair, 2011, then the classroom is fine. It works. I do see obvious challenges with large class sizes and small spaces, but I think the first change needs to be in the area of instructional design before we tear class walls down.

One of the most important roles we will have as teachers in the age of the internet is what Siemens states as the, “ know-where (the understanding of where to find knowledge needed).” We need to teach children where to find the knowledge they need. It is like finding a needle in a haystack. We need to teach students how to filter through the incredible amount of irrelevant, useless information in order to discover the key pieces of information they do need. Once they find those key pieces, we then create opportunities to apply that knowledge to real-world issues and questions, which their answers or innovative solutions can then be shared globally. Teachers are more important than ever!

3 thoughts on “We need teachers more than ever!

  1. Bettina Meyer

    Frank your post rang true on many levels. Your title grabbed my attention, as a student said to me the other day that we will no longer need schools… It made me stop in my tracks, and talk to him about why, and what about the social, face to face aspect that schools provide. Even though you didn’t mention this aspect in your post, I believe it is still very important. More so, I think your last paragraph resonated with me, because it is going to be about teaching the students the skills to ‘find the information they need,’ then of course how to analyze, synthesis, apply …. the list goes on. However two big pieces I believe need to be addressed also, is how teacher’s are currently being trained and of course the curriculum we are expected to currently teach. Do you think this change will happen or will we always be playing catch up to the needs of today/tomorrow?

  2. Laurie

    i enjoyed reading this post, Francois. Like you, I worry about the impact of all this screen time on the brain, and I appreciated the articles you shared. Last year, I read a book called Mind Change, by neuroscientist Susan Greenfield link to amazon.com. The book might be overly pessimistic, but at the same time, it brought up some valid concerns about how screen-time is changing the landscape of our brains. There are many benefits to using technology in education, but I think we should be cautious and ensure that students aren’t just staring at screens all day. We need to continue emphasizing human interaction and collaboration, because even with technology, we need people who have the social skills to communicate and work together effectively. I completely agree that we will always need teachers to help students navigate the overwhelming amount of information online, organize and synthesize it, and transfer it to that mental filing system. Technology is amazing, but we need to carefully consider whether we are just using it in the classroom, or whether we are using it in a way that truly supports learning.

  3. Jason Krugler

    You said it all, Frank. I am not sure what I can contribute here. When I was reading your article, I kept coming back to something I once heard Sal Khan state. He discussed the changing role of education and technology’s importance in that change. He talked about the fact that we are still teaching skills that students do not need to retain. With immediate access to information, is learning to spell as critical as it once was – especially since we rarely communicate through handwriting anymore? Is knowing basic math facts essential for students to solve problems that they will face on a daily basis? Are we going to stop teaching reading to the extent that we do when a device can read it to us? I know that it all sounds crazy, but it is something that needs to be discussed. There is definitely not a large population of people that believe these things now, but it is a way of thinking that is gaining traction. Food for thought.


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