Tech makes new de­mands on teach­ers

The world is chang­ing fun­da­men­tally, which means ed­u­ca­tion must evolve in turn in order to re­main rel­e­vant

Mail & Guardian - - Education - Mot­ladi An­ge­line Setl­hako

The dig­i­tal age is chang­ing the world at an ac­cel­er­ated speed. The ques­tion is: Are teach­ers con­cerned about un­der­stand­ing the rapid changes be­ing brought about by tech­nol­ogy? Or is dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy dis­rupt­ing their com­fort zone and the busi­ness of teach­ing?

Although I see the ac­cel­er­ated changes and the dis­rup­tion as ex­cit­ing, it re­quires teach­ers to adopt and adapt to new tech­nolo­gies if they are to sur­vive in the class­room.

Tech­nol­ogy has rev­o­lu­tionised many in­dus­tries — and teach­ers, as agents of change, need to ven­ture into a dif­fer­ent mode of teach­ing.

New ways of de­liv­er­ing in­for­ma­tion should be of con­cern to teach­ers, be­cause they are no longer the ma­jor source of knowl­edge who con­trol and di­rect the cog­ni­tive devel­op­ment of pupils. Tech­nol­ogy should make life eas­ier for teach­ers and pupils by mak­ing in­for­ma­tion read­ily avail­able.

Schools and teach­ers will con­tinue to have to op­er­ate on a dif­fer­ent plat­form be­cause of the con­stant devel­op­ment of tech­nol­ogy. The ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem is chang­ing — and, if it has not done so, it should. So­ci­ety in gen­eral and the pupils we teach have changed, which means the role of teach­ers needs to change.

In ad­di­tion, we see that the in­sti­tu­tions of higher learn­ing have changed and have in­tro­duced and are ac­cel­er­at­ing on­line learn­ing.

But we might not be aware of, or maybe we are ig­nor­ing, the fact that the school sys­tem is chang­ing. Tech­nol­ogy is ad­vanc­ing at such a speed that, if we ig­nore the changes tak­ing place and fail to im­prove our school cur­ricu­lums, we will con­tinue to pro­duce un­sat­is­fac­tory re­sults.

To im­prove the qual­ity of our teach­ers and learn­ing, on­line learn­ing is ideal. A nor­mal class­room is com­posed of di­verse in­di­vid­u­als, each with their unique in­tel­li­gence, to a greater or lesser ex­tent. Re­search in­forms us that on­line teach­ing can ac­com­mo­date the dif­fer­ent lev­els of in­tel­li­gence found in a class­room.

For ex­am­ple, a teacher, by in­ter­act­ing with each pupil in on­line dis­cus­sion boards and by gaug­ing how they re­spond to dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties, can learn to know and un­der­stand each of the pupils bet­ter.

There is no doubt that, in on­line teach­ing, pupils in­ter­act to a greater ex­tent with the learn­ing ma­te­rial on their own be­fore seek­ing a teacher’s as­sis­tance. They have a bet­ter op­por­tu­nity to re­spond to and re­flect on a teacher’s ques­tions and as­sign­ments than they do cur­rently with home­work. On­line teach­ing is ac­ces­si­ble, con­ve­nient and flex­i­ble. Go­ing on­line will re­duce the mul­ti­faceted chal­lenges teach­ers ex­pe­ri­ence in our class­rooms to­day.

Are teach­ers ready for this dis­rup­tion? They need to un­der­stand that dis­rup­tions are healthy some­times. It only re­quires peo­ple to look at teach­ing and the work they do dif­fer­ently. This kind of dis­rup­tion re­quires peo­ple who are ready to learn and a gov­ern­ment that is will­ing to pro­vide sup­port, plat­forms and the op­por­tu­nity to learn.

The chal­lenge is that, with the use of tech­nol­ogy, the role of the teacher must change. This is mul­ti­faceted and may en­tail so­cial and be­havioural changes, and changes to the strate­gies ap­plied in teach­ing and learn­ing.

This huge task de­mands that teach­ers and prospec­tive teach­ers must pre­pare them­selves to use tech­nol­ogy in the class­room. As much as they need to learn new skills, they also need to un­learn and re­learn, oth­er­wise they will be re­garded as il­lit­er­ate.

Alvin Tof­fler ar­gued back in 1970 in his book Fu­ture Shock that the il­lit­er­ates of the 21st cen­tury will not be those who can­not read and write but those who can­not learn, un­learn and re­learn. This does not mean read­ing and writ­ing is not im­por­tant but learn­ing new ways of teach­ing and learn­ing are equally im­por­tant. Thus, teach­ers, ir­re­spec­tive of their age, their knowl­edge and their qual­i­fi­ca­tions, have the task of fo­cus­ing on the three el­e­ments iden­ti­fied by Tof­fler in order to pre­pare the fu­ture gen­er­a­tion.

Fur­ther­more, Klaus Sch­wab, the founder and ex­ec­u­tive chair­per­son of the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum, spoke of the fourth in­dus­trial revo­lu­tion (4IR) in 2016, ex­plain­ing what it means and how to re­spond to its chal­lenges. He is con­vinced that the way we live, work and re­late to one an­other is chang­ing fun­da­men­tally.

Teach­ers have a huge re­spon­si­bil­ity to pre­pare the present and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to thrive in a world that is con­stantly trans­form­ing. Avi Ganon, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of ed­u­ca­tion and vo­ca­tional train­ing non- gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion World ORT, writes that, in the cur­rent en­vi­ron­ment, the ed­u­ca­tional tools, cur­ricu­lums and teach­ing tech­niques that have been fol­lowed for decades may no longer be rel­e­vant or even fit for pur­pose.

Cur­ricu­lum spe­cial­ists and the gov­ern­ment need to re­visit and re­view cur­ricu­lums con­stantly be­cause fu­ture gen­er­a­tions need to un­der­stand the var­i­ous tech­nolo­gies and how they will dis­rupt the job mar­ket. Teach­ers are not only re­spon­si­ble for pro­vid­ing pupils with knowl­edge and un­der­stand­ing but must also em­power them with the skills to be­come crit­i­cal thinkers, so that they can make the right de­ci­sions when choos­ing ca­reers that will en­able them to thrive in the world of work.

Re­search in­forms us that ed­u­ca­tion is now about de­vel­op­ing mul­ti­ple in­tel­li­gences and this de­mands a holis­tic ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem com­mit­ted to en­abling pupils to achieve their full po­ten­tial. The learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment in the 21st cen­tury needs to en­com­pass a mul­ti­plic­ity of places, ideas and peo­ple; it must be tech­no­log­i­cally driven and of­ten ex­ist in a vir­tual rather than a phys­i­cal space.

The re­spon­si­bil­ity for cre­at­ing such an en­vi­ron­ment lies with the teacher. This means teacher ed­u­ca­tion can­not be ex­on­er­ated for fail­ing to skill and train teach­ers for the 21st cen­tury. Woon-Chia Liu and Ee-Ling Low, the ed­i­tors of Teacher Ed­u­ca­tion in the 21st Cen­tury: Sin­ga­pore’s Evo­lu­tion and In­no­va­tion, ad­vo­cate that teacher ed­u­ca­tion should de­velop teach­ers who are thought­ful, re­flect­ing and in­quir­ing.

The teacher of the fu­ture needs a new set of skills and com­pe­ten­cies to man­age and im­ple­ment new tech­nolo­gies. Us­ing tech­nol­ogy, es­pe­cially in the class­room, cre­ates a world of new dis­cov­er­ies and ex­plo­ration. This means teach­ers need to as­sume new roles that al­low them to ac­com­mo­date the knowl­edge of the new world.

Bryan Ed­ward Pen­prase, dean of fac­ulty at Soka Uni­ver­sity of Amer­ica’s un­der­grad­u­ate pro­gramme, writes that the reskilling of prac­tis­ing teach­ers has be­come crit­i­cal and teacher ed­u­ca­tion should make sure all pro­grammes af­ford stu­dent teach­ers the op­por­tu­nity to learn the skills of teach­ing.

But he refers to shift­ing the fo­cus to “ac­tive learn­ing ped­a­go­gies that place a pre­mium on col­lab­o­ra­tion within di­verse teams in a project-based and peer-learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment”.

Ini­tial teacher train­ing pro­grammes should be struc­tured to deal with the skills and com­pe­tences re­quired by the 21st-cen­tury teacher and pre­pare them for 4IR to meet the needs and de­mands of fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. The cur­ricu­lum should con­nect for­mal learn­ing and the world of work be­yond the class­room.

The teacher of the fu­ture needs a new set of skills and com­pe­ten­cies to man­age and im­ple­ment new tech­nolo­gies

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