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The Role of the Teacher in the Digital Age
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The Role of the Teacher in the Digital Age

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Take a moment to remember an inspirational teacher who has made an impact on your life. Visualize them. What did they look like? How did their voice sound? What sort of things did they say? It won’t come as a surprise to find that it’s easy to bring that teacher into your mind, even after so many years. You might not have seen them for many years, but they are still there as a small voice, a memory that has helped to form you into the person that you are today.

Humanity behind the machine

This much we know to be true: people empower people. Teachers empower students to follow their passions. To be creative, productive people, and to learn new things that they never knew they could learn. But the role of the teacher in the 21st century has changed, in the same way that our technology and the way that we relate to each other has changed. When your goal is to transform learning environments from the classroom to online learning, one of the biggest challenges is finding the humanity behind the machine. Both professors and students need to adapt to the many changes in the world of education.

How has technology transformed the role of a teacher?

Search engines

Technology allows teachers to upgrade their knowledge about a matter faster by online courses or YouTube channels. This means that teachers can continually upgrade their knowledge and offer up to date information to their student with no need to stop working.

Technology allows teachers to discover solutions to problems collaboratively. They can join communities of experts, share their knowledge and give an answer to their students about almost everything without delay using platforms like Quora.com.

Technology allows teachers to use search engines to find examples to enrich the content of their lessons, foster in students the interest for a subject and increase the engagement with their matter. As this method is quick and free, is possible to try something and, if that doesn’t work, then try something else.

As students can also use search engines, the teacher can push them to be active learners and foster in them the thirst for discovery and knowledge. In this new context the teacher should act as a quality and quantity filter for the huge amount of information available on the internet. Today teachers can raise the importance of student ides and recognise that they are central to the learning experience of the group of study.

When educators will move their teaching methods from teacher-centred to student-centred, from talk and show to inquiry, they will be able to leverage on each student’s abilities, interests and learning styles.

Inspiration and cultivation

Professors have become facilitators. It is no longer enough for a professor to get up on a podium and spout their knowledge in the hope that some of their wisdom will stick. A professor must be engaging and ultimately, instead of handing the material to the student to memorize for the final exam, the teacher must guide them through their own realizations and understanding of the subject matter. The style of teaching online, therefore, must be adapted. Teaching becomes more flexible and much more personal. A professor is expected to guide a student, not just through the process of the discovery of the material, but also to the discovery of their own potential.

 

Therefore, a professor is expected to work hard to ensure their students not only learn about the key concepts of the course, but also learn to use the necessary technology. Professors ensure students use the most appropriate tools, while giving constructive feedback, so they feel accompanied at all times. Optimal learning happens when students have a safe, constructive, online platform. Students are not only visiting a virtual campus. They also need a personal space for community, or collaboration areas to really thrive. This is the human behind the machine, and a strong online community leads successful students who feel supported throughout their studies. Student capability assessments not only include the student’s knowledge in their field, but also their ability to use relevant technology.

How has technology transformed the role of a student?

The role of the student has changed as well. Students are now the owners of their own journey, and it is easy for them to forget about the human community behind digital technologies. It is important, in online learning, to keep the human component. This is achieved through live webinars or group work in class. And, of course, student skills have evolved. Now, students are required to have some technological skills prior to starting their course, ensuring they will be able to follow along without any problems. Students need basic knowledge on keeping safe and secure online. What must a student do to keep themselves safe when learning online? How can they ensure their privacy and what achievements can be made in the online platform? These are all questions that both professors and students need to consider.

We can already see the results of online education. Everyone knows someone close to them that has studied online, either in part or fully.

Some deep learning competencies include:

  • Creativity
  • Communication
  • Citizenship
  • Critical thinking
  • Character
  • Collaboration

Blended learning examples

What is the future of teaching profession?

In a student-centred classroom, students receive tips from the teacher then they freely choose their sources, tools, devices, format and in what theme go in depth. At the same time students are forced to be active, responsible and participants in their learning. On the other side they can experience difficulties to establish what is wrong and what is right and if the sources they stumble upon are authentic and trustworthy. That is why the teacher needs to become a mentor contextualizing information and guiding students in the practical application of the information they found.

Technological progress and adoption of artificial intelligence have a growing trend. Students use of the internet to find the contents of their studies has a growing trend too. We can say that as consequence of these factors, soon students will stop using books also in digital format. Students of the future will switch from text to video format to grow their knowledge about a matter. Libraries will become students meeting points with no books on the shelves. Students will ask questions to artificial intelligences and they will receive an answer in a multimedia format. In this context, teachers, after having become mentors, will have to take a step towards the programming of artificial intelligences that, perhaps one day, will take their place.

Online learning technology

Until few years ago, the teacher held the position of authoritative power in a classroom, he was the only holder of knowledge among its walls and communication between student and educator was one-way. Students that memorized information and demonstrate understanding of taught concepts, were rewarded with grades. Today teachers are learning with their students through co-learning, sharing and collaboration. They are content producers and content consumers at the same time thanks to a simple click of the mouse, or to a YouTube channel accessible on their smartphones from everywhere. In this context, the walls of a classroom are no longer a knowledge container rather a limit.

The added benefits of online learning, such as familiarity and comfort with technology and improved communication skills, as well as the new roles that students and professors undertake in online education, will push online learning to the forefront of education in the next future, making quality education accessible to all interested students.

Our students now collaborate with people around the world, so it is important that, as the system changes, education providers and students learn how to be productive, how to keep information and protect it, how to communicate effectively and how to be a positive influence in an increasingly connected world.