This seems to be the sentence that stuck from my presentation at the last ETCon. Teachers are Dinosaurs old and ponderous in mind and hence doomed to extinct.
Of course I chose this title because it is kind of edgy and fits all the cut and dried opinions people have about education in general and teachers in particular. And as I think this is a very interesting topic I would like to elaborate my thoughts on this a bit more in detail than I did during my presentation.
The basis for my presentation was this quote from the National Science Foundation:
The dinosaurs died gradually from climate change caused by a series of severe volcanic eruptions [...]
The article is about the newest theory that not an impact of an asteroid had taken out the dinosaurs but a series of volcanic eruptions in India.
I think we can take this sentence and with a slight change you get what I see as the future of teachers
The teachers died gradually from social change caused by a series of severe technologic eruptions.
I can remember that back in school the doctrine still was that dinosaurs were extinct because they were not able to adapt to new situations or their time on earth was over. But that’s not true, dinosaurs did great. They did not say one day: “Wow, we are so old, let’s die out and make room for new species.” Without the climate change caused by the volcanic eruptions they might be there up to today. Hence dinosaurs had no influence on their extinction and I think the same is true for teachers.
And if I am talking about teachers, I mean teachers as we know them today. If we are precise, dinosaurs are still living amongst us. Birds are the direct descendants of the dinosaurs, they are just not looking and behaving like their ancestors anymore.
So what are those severe eruptions that cause the “climate” change for teachers today? Well, first of all the internet. But I would not see the internet as a gigantic explosion, I would compare it to the magma chamber that is causing all the eruptions. You don’t see it on the surface for a long time. Maybe some cracks, a rumbling and from time to time some sulfur smoke but nothing really to worry about. Until the day there is enough pressure in the chamber and the eruption starts.
So what are the eruptions that will change the climate for teachers today? There are many and the list is getting longer every week so I will only mention a couple of them in this post today.
VoIP & Webconferencing
One of the germ cells of online education is for sure Voice over IP. VoIP changed the way we communicate with each other. With Skype and all the other services which followed suit people from around the world can talk for free in a quality that gets better and better. Additional features like video calls and screen sharing make this technology to one of the main driving forces of change in education.
The more elaborate version of VoIP, webconferencing adds even more interactive tools to it. With whiteboards, co-browsing, file sharing and other features online classes get more and more interactive and closer to the classic brick and mortar classroom.
The video revolution makes it possible for everyone to become a producer and therefore content creator. All you need is a webcam and a microphone, hardware that is included in most devices today and off you go. Jon Bischke wrote a great post about the video tsunami that is about to hit education.
Google & Wikipedia
Knowledge is universal and everywhere. Instead of remembering every detail we are drifting towards a world where we basically just “need to know where it is written down”. The internet becomes an “external hard drive for our brains” as the information we need can be found so easily.
This is the next stage of knowledge anytime, everywhere. The internet gets more and more accessible not only via WiFi in Cafés and other public spots but also via the use of smartphones. Geo location and augmented reality are only two aspects of this.
Web 2.0 / Social Media
This is the biggest social shift since the book print. I suggest watching the presentation of Clay Shirky on How social media can make history, sums it up nicely. What does this mean for teachers? Well, on the one hand students are now able to connect and therefore help each other. I see a trend towards more and more asynchronous learning with addition of synchronous parts in personal learning networks / study groups. There are many advantages to learn this way reaching from setting your own pace to saving tons of money.
This means teachers will face less and less entry level students on the internet with the result that most teachers have to adjust their teaching style as grammar and vocabulary drills will be done by the students on their own. So no “fillers” anymore in the actual teaching session.
So, what does this all mean in the end? Will teachers totally disappear or only a few will survive in micro niches? To me it is quite obvious that there has to be an evolution of the teacher as we know him today. As dinosaurs did not extinct but slowly transformed into birds, teachers will transform what some of us already call guides. There will still be parts of today’s teacher in the DNA of those guides but they will adapt to the new climate in education.
Of course some teachers will just die out and there will also be “living fossils” around who simply survive any drastic change. Like classic victorian house teachers, there will always be a niche for them.
There is a lot more to write about this shift, of course and I will concentrate my posts in 2010 towards the different trends. I think during the next year we will actually see the first big impacts on education starting with the roadmap of the Department of Education that is scheduled for early 2010.
Will be an exciting year (another one)!