The internet has caused some amazing things to happen to education. Information is now available to anyone who is connected, and is available practically whenever they want. Teachers used to provide knowledge in their class, but that role is now diminishing. So how does that change how we teach?
Information can now be used to settle arguments instantly, data no longer needs to be remembered – which is great for those that want facts. If any information is not available on a website, answers can be found on forums or social networks. And collaboration means that multiple users can pool their resources and create something new.
Students still need guidance, so that part of the job is still very much relevant. Students also need knowledge to be explained, and shown how it all fits together. In other words, teachers and schools are still required, but educators should be aware that students will come to class having acquired knowledge on their own, in their own time, in their own way. And this should not only be allowed, but encouraged. Most teachers, I imagine, don’t have an issue with this, but the problem is still real – how do we deal with it? How can we make sure that students manage all this information properly? What else could we be doing?
Well, there are certain skills we can still teach. Being able to tell the difference between truth and propaganda. To reference information appropriately. To be able to condense information without reducing the quality or meaning. To present information without distorting it. To be able to communicate accurately and articulately. So does this mean that a teachers role is purely as a skill-enabler? Of course not.
It is very tempting for everyone to assume that gaining knowledge is all there is to teaching (and vis a vis, teachers may no longer be needed), but anyone who has spent any real time in a classroom knows that to be inaccurate. Understanding and application of that knowledge is a significant part of teaching, as is knowing where, when, and how to best use it.
And let’s not forget that all these benefits and opportunities are also available to teachers, too. Recognising which resources are useful, which sites will benefit learning the best, and so on. Educators will need support on all these things. Training will also be required on how to manage it all and the best way to meet the needs of the students. Training and raising confidence in staff is key to having any real effect on raising the attainment of students. Without this, the distance between students and teachers may grow too far to be of any benefit.
Technology can bring all these strands together, not only easily, but in a real meaningful way. Using the internet to find information is obvious, as is using appropriate software to present that information. Technology can help students take home an example their teacher may have made. Live collaboration means that students can not only work together, but support each other, and explain concepts in their own words – from wherever they are. Lessons can be flipped, so that the actual knowledge and learning happens outside of school, and the understanding and application can happen inside the school.
Note-taking becomes more fluid, flexible – all helping to see things differently and how it was intended. Information is no longer tied to one location or in one format. Collecting ideas and thoughts becomes tangible and a point of reference for all. Teachers still have a big part in a student’s life – maybe bigger than ever. They need to support, manage, explain, guide, and even teach their students how to understand the wealth of information that students have access to. The first step, I think, is for schools to recognise this. Once they have, teachers can be supported in the right ways, and carry on preparing their students for their future.
The choices and possibilities are just starting to be explored. Where will it take you?
Image courtesy of Flickr, woodleywonderworks