Friday, August 14, 2015

The Role of a Teacher

From George Siemens, Learning and Knowing in Networks: Changing roles for Educators and Designers, different ways to view the role of a teacher:


Clarence Fisher (n.d.), blogger and classroom teacher, suggests a model of “teacher as network administrator” (p. 1):


Just as our mind has been a continually evolving set of connections between concepts, so our students and their learning can become placed at the center of a personal learning network which they construct with our help for their maximum benefit. Helping students to gain the skills they require to construct these networks for learning, evaluate their effectiveness, and work within a fluid structure is a massive change in how the business of classrooms is usually structured. (p. 1)

Curtis Bonk (2007) presents the educator as a concierge directing learners to resources or learning opportunities that they may not be aware of. He states,

We need to push students into the many learning possibilities that are ripe for them now. Concierges sometimes show you things you did not know were available or possible. Teachers as concierges can do the same things. We need to have quick access to such resources, of course, but as this occurs increasingly around the planet, so too will we sense a shift from prescribed learning checkboxes toward more learner designed programs of study. Now the Web of Learning offers this chance to explore and allow teachers to be their tour guides. (6)  The concierge serves to provide a form of “soft” guidance—at times incorporating traditional lectures and, in other instances, permitting learners to explore on their own.

Like Bonk (2007), I suggest that educators must assume dual roles: as experts with advanced knowledge of a domain and guides who foster and encourage learner exploration. Educators create learning resources that expose learners to the critical ideas, concepts, and papers within a field. 

I am convinced that a curatorial teacher acknowledges the autonomy of learners, yet understands the frustration of exploring unknown territories without a map. A curator is an expert learner. Instead of dispensing knowledge, he creates spaces in which knowledge can be created, explored, and connected. While curators understand their field very well, they don't adhere to traditional in‐ class teacher‐centric power structures. A curator balances the freedom of individual learners with the thoughtful interpretation of the subject being explored. While learners are free to explore, they encounter displays, concepts, and artifacts representative of the discipline. Their freedom to explore is unbounded. But when they engage with subject matter, the key concepts of a discipline are transparently reflected through the curatorial actions of the teacher. (Siemens, 2007, 9)