I have received many nice comments and I am very grateful to those people who took the time to tell me what they have learned and say they wish it weren’t the last one.
This is all happening while I am preparing for my video conference lecture on December 1st. I will be in Jerusalem speaking to a group in Helsinki.
Last June, when I was at the Harvard Management and Leadership in Education seminar, this topic of distance learning and on-line classes was one of the more controversial topics. What will become of us teachers? Are we going to turn into an endangered species in ten years? An extinct species in twenty? Will people learn how to play the double bass by watching my videos rather than attending lessons?
I must admit that I am optimistic, as I see exactly the opposite. Not only will the teacher not disappear, but teaching will assume its original role. Thus, the teacher will be more respected, yet will also have a new set of responsibilities, or should I say, the teacher will reassume the old role of a mentor.
As knowledge becomes readily available to all, the role of the teacher will cease to be one of imparting knowledge. Teachers will have to address the student rather than teach the subject matter. Since knowledge will not be as dominant, the teacher’s advantage of knowledge will not be as relevant. The teacher-student relationship will consequently be much less hierarchical and will resemble a partnership on a journey with an unknown end, not limited to a single discipline of knowledge.
How will we be able to measure success? Dr. Robert Kegan from the Harvard Graduate School of Education calls it “Transformational learning” rather than “Informational learning”. Instead of pouring information into a cup (the student), we try to transform the shape of the cup so it can take more in or use it in different ways.
For this change to take place, what will be required of the system? Who will then want to become a teacher? What will we require of the candidates for teaching programs?
The more I talk to people who are already in the system, it seems to me that they are not just willing to make the change but they wish they could already do it. They wish the system would allow it to happen. Many young teachers I meet feel frustrated with their assigned roles of “grade producers”. They would much rather be evaluated for the meaning they create in the lives of their students than by their class average on a math exam.
In our Teaching is an Art class, we watched a speech by Prof. Elliot Eisner who said that one of the greatest satisfactions in teaching is the discovery that something you once said in class and you cannot remember made a difference for a former student you happen to meet twenty years later. I think about the teachers who transformed something in me. I know exactly what influence they had. In most cases I do not remember anything they taught me.
More to follow.
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