Sunday, 10 April 2005

Teachers are in big trouble

Stephen Downes' OLDaily pointed to a Plugfest 9 presentation by David Wiley in the powerpoint format. However, if you watch the presentation itself (via the video link), you may pick up the clue from David that the days of teachers as a profession is doomed.

Wiley sets up a nice distinction between the "Centralized / Top-down Camp" (which favours intelligent tutoring systems, automated LO assembly systems, advanced visualization techniques and the like) and the "Decentralized / Bottom-up Camp" (which favours large scale self-organizing social systems, content creation, and more).

In the first camp, teachers are deliberately engineered out of the equation because if the design requires a teacher to students ratio, then the solution will not scale.

In the second camp, as David put it, the indigenous solutions in the online worlds do not have "teachers" as a profession.

If these two camps are the two ends of the scale, where are the teachers?

BTW, the summary provided by Stephen is the more accurate overview of David's presentation than mine here. I just point out one point here.


Albert Ip said...

I have written a comment to this post myself in my other blog Learning in 2020. See here

Albert Ip said...

Jeffrey L. Jones posted his comment on EDTECH list. Here is it:

What fun! What a great video/lecture! If you'd like to cut and paste the remarks below into your blog, have at it, but I'll just stick them here.
I do think it important to point out that both of these instructional models have their place..."top down" works great for training situations, where (as a professor of mine is fond of saying) the goal is a "reduction of variance" such as the astery of a skill. The "bottom up" one works well for communities of learners or ommunities of practice, where expertise and progress is provided by an assumed level of motivation and work, and is measured by performance. I think it's a mistake to think of them as opposite extremes of a continuum, but, in any case, neither of those circumstances really comes close to describing the responsibilities of most of the membership of this list.
I'm really glad I watched all of David's lecture before I answered, since it is quite clear that the answer hinges on the definition of "teacher." I might infer from the question that a "teacher" is a lecturer with full control over rows of desk-sitting and rote-assigment-pursuing 6th graders. That model has been under attack for decades. In typical fashion, the digital revolution just woke up, and claims to have created the battle. Not that the battle has been won (far from it, unfortunately), but teachers who insist on maintaining lecture as a universally viable pedagogy have been in danger of being marginalized for a long time - certainly long before web-delivered asynchronous instruction, and it's "discovery" of the "guide on the side" approach to instructional delivery, got sexy. David's point about MIT offering their content for free online (knowing that their "business model" is one of service, not information) exactly reinforces this idea, without placing any professor's job at risk.
So the real question isn't "where is the teacher?", but "where are the humans, and what are they doing?" As David also quite ably pointed out, no system without humans can do anything but address the bottom of Bloom's Taxonomy. Of course, the "bottom up" idea implies a rearrangement of the concept of the "expert." The debate over whether we need degrees, certificates, and other indicators of knowledge and expertise is a good one, but it's moot when the subject is our children. No educational system designed to address the universal learning needs of an entire society of children can function without trained adult leadership and presence. A society cannot simultaneously strive for "no child left behind" AND a dillution of adult responsibility for the implementation of that ideal. So, as always, the question isn't "where is the teacher?", but rather, "what should the teacher be doing?"
I've said this in many ways on my various forums...technologies do not make educational reform movements. They can serve as tools, but reform movements are defined by humans for humans, and they'll be implemented by humans for humans. If I want a definition of SCORM, Google works great (and after an entire week doing a lit review on the state of virtual learning design, I'm up to here with "learning objects!"). But if I want to learn how to "...make choices based on reasoned argument..." or "...verify the value of evidence...", or any of the other items at the top of the Taxonomy, I'm going to need a human, and I'm going to want that human's undivided attention.
How that can happen is a matter of debate, but for now I'm still
going to call that human a teacher.
Jeffrey L. Jones
Editor, The E-line
A service of EMCK.Net