Why this is the best time to be an educator?
Reflections on the first day of the New Year 2018:
To an observer whose sights are on the developing technological horizon of Big Data, the Internet of Things, Robotics, Drones and enhanced Machine Intelligence competing with humans, it is clear that as we enter the last years of the 2nd decade of the 21st Century, the next 5 to 10 years are likely to emerge as a new Renaissance in education.
We now realise that the Teacher is far more important than the expert consultant, because an expert can demonstrate his or her skill in context, but it is the Teacher that creates an expert practitioner out of an initially ignorant or incompetent person. Education is increasingly becoming learner centric and knowledge is mutually created by the teacher and learner.
In fact, Science the most glorious of human endeavours flourishes because it is a community of Scientists that drives it, and not a hierarchy of bureaucrats and politicians.
We must prepare to move from the ‘art of teaching’ to ‘the Science of learning’, and just as the microscope, telescope and other instruments aided Scientific progress by providing data to be put into contexts, patterns and insights, it is the Computer, Internet, variety of sensors and allied technologies that will drive this transition from a qualitative uncertain authority based model to a data driven one that allows every learner to learn.
The pedagogy of mobile education with adoption of Heutagogy, managing the learning of self-directed life long learners will become one of the important competencies of the new age teacher.
We call this emergent model ‘ The Augmented Classroom Lecture’ which performs a space shift, device shift and time-shift of the traditional classroom lecture.
It incorporates the ideas of ‘flipped learning’, mastery learning and personalisation of the learning experience. We will get more drawn to the significance and importance of ‘social learning ‘ a component that gets significantly enhanced with technology and the size of the learning cohort.
Teachers were at some point in history respected as much as Gods, and teaching was a ‘calling’. In the industrially dominated era, they were often treated as ‘machines’ to produce trained humans who could carry out those functions in factories that could not be carried out by machines. Thus ‘ learning outcomes ‘ assembly line production and quality control processes became dominant.
As we contemplate on the future and specifically of the role of educators and learning, a few insights emerge.
In the foreseeable future, both the human populations and its longevity will be increasing significantly.
“Millennials will have over 13 jobs in their lifetime and the median time they will spend in a job will be three years … when they switch from one job to the next, the skills they will need in that next job will usually be something they not only don’t know but in many cases didn’t even exist when they went to school,” said Professor Koller, co-founder of Coursera .
The formal education system, is no longer equipped to cope with the emerging challenges, and the big opportunity is for educators to emerge from the background and take centre stage in addressing the challenges.
Education is constrained by a tradition of preparing clergy for the church or academics for the academia, and is not readily able to respond to the challenges of a very rapidly changing world.
Even in the classical space of learning and research there are many examples of non-recognition of talent or brilliance. For instance John Gurdon was while at Eton considered completely unsuitable for learning Science ( in fact his report card said that this would be a ridiculous idea, and a waste of time of all concerned) would later win a Nobel Prize in Medicine.
The biggest anomaly is that while we teach a number of subjects, we still do not teach learning. Nor do we have a proper system of assessment, and no examination Board declares the error margins inherent in the design of their systems.
It is said that the Internet changes everything, and accessing the Internet through the mobile, even more so. There is a movement in the developed world that ‘ sitting is the new smoking’ which basically draws attention to the fact that sitting at desks ( whether at the office or at School or College) beyond brief periods for rest is significantly harmful, comparable to the harmful effects of smoking.
So we need of have new learning spaces outside the classroom where learners can move around and explore. With handheld devices for content flow, and assessment spending time in the real world rather than in the cloistered existence of academia may be the way. Such spaces are well described as ‘co-learning’ spaces rather than as classrooms or laboratories.
In the context of law ( especially criminal law) it is said that ‘Ignorantia juris non excusat (Latin for “ignorance of the law excuses no one”).
But in real life ” ignorance itself is no excuse”.
So learn, all that you can learn. You never know when not knowing something can be harmful.
The role of the educator is to remove ignorance. Sometimes the learner may know what he needs to learn. But more often in the mode of Socratic questioning, the educator takes the learner through the 4 stages of unknown incompetence, known incompetence, known competence and finally unknown competence. And learning happens in several ways from multiple sources.
There is a saying that ‘when the learner is ready, the teacher will appear’.
And the role of the educator as subject matter expert is secondary to the role of creating conditions in which learning happens. For this the future educator has to blend nature, technology, data and human and machine intelligence to ensure that every learner is able to achieve his desired learning goals.
The main point is that education as a cure or remedy for ignorance is the new reality, and is equally applicable to health, justice, relationships and nation and world building.
With millions of screens on which educators can be viewed both synchronously and asynchronously, we should not be surprised if a decade from now ‘educators’ will become the new celebrities.
Who can believe today that great actors at one time worked as salaried employees in theatre companies and film studios.
In a decade or so, salaried teachers at School or College will be a thing of the past and celebrity RockStar teachers and professors will have millions of learners from all over the world following them on YouTube, Facebook or Twitter.
Educators who shape minds ( not only young minds, but throughout the life-span as well) are therefore very important now, and now indeed is the best time to be an educator.
Happy New Year 2018 !!!