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Who is the Teacher?

Teacher written on greenboardJust as today's learner is changing, so too is the teacher. Teachers of today and the future will use technology as a tool to facilitate learning for themselves and their students. Foremost, teachers must also be learners. As Nicholas Burbules says in Self Educating Communities: Collaboration and Learning through the Internet, "in self educating communities [like today’s classrooms] the roles of teacher and student become fluid; most or all participants may regard themselves as students of the ongoing subject matter, and each as potential learners as well as a potential teacher.”

As rapidly evolving technology transforms the virtual and real landscape of education, teachers need to be the life long and life wide learners that they seek their students to be. No longer the sole source of knowledge, they will shift from centre stage to become the guide and partner of learners. As experts in learning, teachers should have the autonomy to design and facilitate learning that encourages learners to construct their own learning as an active social process through authentic projects. Imparting knowledge is no longer enough. With new technologies increasing the availability of information, knowing facts is becoming less important than knowing where to find information and critically evaluate it. As Cisco's Learning Society White Paper says, "Navigating knowledge is at least as important as knowing facts...commentators now talk in terms of the rapidly diminishing 'half-life of many fields this half-life' is now measured in months rather than years.

A Vision of 21st Century Teachers

In the video aboveteachers give a vision of 21st Century teachers.

They are teachers who

Who is the teacher? Who is the Learner? Self Educating Communities

In the video below, two students discuss who is the teacher. spacerwiki280.gif
The video was created for a discussion post in Nick Burbules's EPS415 class in the CTER program.

George Seimens in his blog elearnspace post "It's New! It's New!" writes about the key skills needed for educators:

  1. Technical Competence
    -knowing how to use technology of the era."Using any tool well requires a blend of technical competence and awareness of pedagogical opportunities."
  2. Experimentation
    -every teacher should be a researcher constantly refining her/his learning approach
  3. Autonomy
    -learners need to experience value of personal control-every student must be a teacher
  4. Creation
    learners need to create, produce, construct
  5. Play
    -random exploration without a goal
  6. Developing capacity for complexity
    -"Most answers don’t exist in advance of engaging with the phenomenon. Answers and questions are not like lego-blocks that need to be clicked together. Instead, answers are more like a painting or canvas in response to a problem landscape" (Nov 8, 2010,

Teaching 2020

In the United States in 2010, teachers and unions are under attack. In the NBC week-long production (September 26, 2010) Education Nation, the viewers heard panels of so-called experts discuss solutions to education's problems. For the most part teachers, students and parents were excluded from the panels. In a September 21st comment on Edutopia Will Richardson says, "There is little or no "reinvention" going to happen here, despite the conference tag lines. That list of folks is way too beholden to the system as it currently exists; to even consider a serious "reinvention" would take them far outside of their comfort zones. .. It's especially sad since we really do need a serious conversation around reinventing the role of schools and teachers at a moment of huge shifts around learning." NBC did decide to hold a Town Hall for teachers, but as one of the panelists Stephen Lazar (Lazar's Blog), says, "He should have known better... It became abundantly clear that while well intentioned, NBC really knew very little about the topic they decided to cover, and instead of any real conversation or reporting, relied on the most famous faces in education to argue over the same old points that get us nowhere." Many teachers watching and posting to Edutopia complained that it was a week of teacher and union bashing. EduCitizenship 2020 believes that these kinds of attacks on teachers and an avoidance of real issues like the over reliance on standardized tests and serious underfunding are unproductive.

In Finland, an educational system that is considered highly successful, teachers are required to have Master's degrees, and the teaching profession is a highly sought after career. Teachers use their first names, and are facilitators and partners in learning. They follow determined curricula, but they are able to choose how they meet the outcomes. Treated as professionals, they tend to stay in their jobs long term and they have the respect and trust of students, parents, administrators and their community. Students in Finnish schools spend less time in school than most countries. The Finnish society promotes a community culture of learning. (See more on our link Finland Primary Education) North American education can learn much from such a system.

In a November 2010 report, "How the World's Most Improved School Systems Keep Getting Better" consulting firm McKinsey and Co. reviewed 20 school systems globally. Top performers were school systems from Ontario (Canada), Finland, Singapore and South Korea. One of the reasons Ontario ranked at the top was because of its ability to attract top talent to teaching. Ontario teachers have autonomy in their jobs and high salaries compared to many other countries. (Hammer, Nov 27, 2010)

EduCitizenship 2020 recommends that the teaching profession needs reformation. To attract the best, it is important to improve the image of the profession. One way to do that would be through improved teacher training. Teachers need to be prepared to teach the digital citizens of tomorrow so they must understand new technologies and their implications. Training should focus on creativity, innovation, learning facilitation, and building sustaining networks and communities of learning. Training should not stop at employment-- training needs to be continuous throughout a career. Teachers need to be seen as Learners. We suggest that teachers need to have salaries that would put them in a desired occupation category. A 2010 study by Vanderbilt University's National center on Performance Incentives, the first rigorous look at merit pay found that bonuses to teachers had no effect on student test scores in Nashville's school system over a three year period. (eSchool News, Dec 2010, pg 17). With a good salary, ideas of merit pay could be eliminated. New teachers should be partnered with experienced mentor teachers so that they can learn from others' experience, while the longer term teachers can also benefit from new perspectives and current trends. Once hired, teachers should continue to partner with teachers across disciplines and grades. Once teachers are in jobs they need to be treated as the professionals as they are. They should have the latitude to make make decisions on how to meet the outcomes of the curriculum. With a movement to more authentic tasks and project based learning, there should be less reliance on standardized testing. Teachers and administrations should reach out to their communities to create partnerships that would allow students to be involved in real world learning. These partnerships would create meaningful networks and improve relationships in the community. As teachers move to the role of facilitators and catalysts for learning, they can become respected community partners in learning.

Next up, see Curriculum