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The Changing Role of Teachers

A great deal of discussion and work goes into planning a 1:1 initiative. The vision is embraced, funding is found, budgets are developed, a communication plan for the school, parents, and the community is outlined and put into action. Finally, once everyone is on board for the big adventure, the infrastructure is put in place and the support services are ready, each student is given a laptop. End of story.

But as I think most, if not all, of us recognize, this isn’t true. Laptop deployment is just the beginning of the story. I’d like to think no one goes into a 1:1 program to do more of the same or even to do a slightly enriched version of the same. Just adding laptops doesn’t automatically create change, especially if the laptops are used sparingly and for mundane tasks. Digital worksheets are still worksheets. One-to-one professional development often begins with examining teaching methodology and exploring how this can be changed in order to begin to include the use of the technology to create a profounder, more engaging, more creative learning experience. This usually includes some focus on new skills around creative and critical thinking, connecting ideas, and communicating and collaborating with a variety of people, ranging from local students to experts from around the world.

All these changes mean teachers must now be pedagogical designers, mentors, coaches, evaluators, as well as content-deliverers all the while creating individualized learning opportunities for each and every student. In the meantime, the community, parents, and even the school leadership too often view teachers as first and foremost content-deliverers. It can be difficult to shift your role when all around you people are expecting and even evaluating you based on the old definition of what a teacher should be and do. The pressure to change expressed in a vision statement may be overwhelmed by the pressure NOT to change, based on nostalgic assumptions and expectations of what school should be. So change needs to be managed not just within the school walls, but within the school community and maybe the community at large.

I would very much like to hear from you about whether or not you think the role of teachers has changed and, if yes, how? What do you think the main role of a teacher should be? Does your school community and the community at large support any shift in the role of teachers? What is the role of the media in shaping how the community reacts to changes within your schools? Is it supportive? Is it critical?

I’m very interested in your thoughts on these questions.
May 16th, 2012 @ 11:48AM

Teachers MUST change pedagogy with 1 to 1 programs
I agree 100% with you. The nature of a 1 to 1 laptop/tablet program DEMANDS that the teacher MUST change from a content deliver to an information facilitator. I have taught for the past 5 years in such an environment in 2 different schools. The first one provided amazing support and the other just had the students bring their computers to class. Needless to say, in the second school, the laptops were not effectively used and simply became VERY distracting electronic notebooks. It would have been better had we gotten rid of the computers. The reason for this is that none of the teachers (nor was there any PD for teachers) had any idea on how to use the new technology in the way it demands. 1 to 1 programs require teachers to be essentially re-schooled in teaching as a paradigm shift has occurred as we have a too that forces us to move from a 1 to many content distribution to a many to many collaborative learning environment.
Face it, the computer in front of the students is such a powerful information access tool, that the interest if generates is MUCH more interesting than a teacher lecturing. Hence, the class structure MUST change to engage and direct students to effectively collect/discover information AND then participating in creating new information. Students will naturally take ownership and engage when encouraged to make use of even just some of the advantages this tool provides.
In the end the teacher MUST realize two things 1) They don't know everything and here is the perfect opportunity to encourage students to take ownership for their own learning and teach the teacher something and 2) that students are just so eager to finally be able to create their own content.
Unfortunately, most schools react to the school's inability to prepare teachers properly for 1 to 1 laptop programs by trying to control student access to resources. To answer your question... yes informed school support, establishment of clear expectations AND firm direction as to what is expected educationally from the program is absolutely CRITICAL.
This does not even touch on how such a program should be technically designed and supported... a whole other issue that needs addressing.
Posted By: Roland Schmidt-Bellach on May 30th, 2012 @ 1:06AM
What can a teacher do?
Thanks for your comments, Roland. I couldn't agree with you more - especially when you emphasize the critical importance of defining the educational expectations when moving to 1:1 and, I'll add, making sure there is a common understanding of the meaning of these expectations by everyone in the school. Buzzwords like "Improving 21st century learning," aren't clear enough, since there are scores of different meanings for the term. And that's okay for the world at large, but in a school (as in any team effort) there should be a shared understanding of the meaning. Otherwise, can there be any clear communication between staff or chance of collectively meeting expectations? I have my doubts.

So, in a way, it sounds like teachers are caught in the middle - change, but we won't support you or tell you what we expect. Is there something individual teachers can do or must they hope that support and clarity are on the way?

I also wonder...Should teachers be expected to assume all these new roles or are we unreasonably loading every new technological craze onto the teacher's already full-plate? Is one teacher/class the best structure? Or, should we take a step back and think of a completely different type of structure and new set of relationships for learning in school?

As always, I'm very interested in your thoughts.
Posted By: Susan Einhorn on June 5th, 2012 @ 1:45PM