Can we ditch the dirty looks without ditching the teachers?

As Ted Nelson leads us through his view of traditional education, I’m drinking the kool-aid right with him. Yes, our educational system DRAINS our students of their curiosity, creativity, and motivation! Yes, we need to change (I’m not ready to fully give them up) the arbitrary divisions between subjects. Just adding computers to our current educational practices isn’t going to make any significant changes. Indeed, we need to hone in on the individual interests of our students instead of treating them as one homogeneous bunch.  Agreed, teacher’s dirty looks have no place in our schools…but I think the role of teachers, as mentors, guides, motivators, and role models gets lost in Ted Nelson’s view.

New media could potentially fill a wonderful void; students would no longer have to study in an isolated room with a textbook. As a physics teacher, I see media as bringing students a virtual lab that they would otherwise not have access to, they could get immediate feedback on their problem solving, and they could link up with other students/teachers at any time. But the role of physical social interaction, both with the teacher and the student seems to be missing from his view. Where are the students learning how to work in a team? Where are they communicating their ideas?

I’m also worried that if students are purely self-directed, they may never even be introduced into topics that they might find fascinating! While specialization can be “efficient” is it really the best solution? Isn’t it important that each student has some content literacy in all subjects in order to be an informed citizen? The role of the teacher is to motivate them to learn something outside of their anticipated areas of interest. How about we help reform our system to help the teachers utilize (and maybe develop!) new media effectively?

2 thoughts on “Can we ditch the dirty looks without ditching the teachers?

  1. “Where are the students learning how to work in a team? Where are they communicating their ideas?”

    This is a powerful reflection, and one that I think has to remain at the center of our discussions (collectively, in higher education; specifically here at VT) about the role of online and distance education in the higher education enterprise. I haven’t gotten whacked out by the talk and concern about MOOCs and what they will mean for higher education, precisely because of your questions, above. Part of the value, differentiation and education we offer as a bricks-and-mortar institution involves grooming our future citizens. And this is about more than just the information… having spent years in human resource roles in a variety of industries and organizations, I can tell you how far we have to go in educating people on the people skills. Teamwork, collaboration, idea sharing, problem solving, navigating conflict – all key life skills, and all things that we have a great opportunity to help build through social education approaches, which are incredibly difficult to achieve merely through technology. So a blended approach seems the best fit…

    • Amy, thank you for your thoughtful comments! I’d love to keep this conversation in our minds and in our seminar as we continue reading about the role (potential and actual) of new media in education.

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