Web 2.0 era teachers: technology expertise in education

Nowadays, classrooms are full of students that have been born in the digital era. Young people who, from their childhood, are used to computers, PC, mobile phones, and more recently tablets and ipads. These students do not learn as we did years ago. And teachers should not teach them as they thought us in the past. The variety and interest of students, as well as their skills are completely different now.

Parallel, in today’s world, information is outside schools, colleges and universities, being teachers not more the only source of it. Internet is an enormous place where to find anything but in this intricate jungle an expert guide is as necessary as always. It is increasingly important the ability to access and select that information and transform it in knowledge. And in this learning expedition teachers can be as useful as always.

So, technology has made students different and with other capabilities and technology must convert teachers into the experts that guide these new learners in their educational process. The main goal of a teacher is to improve his students’ learning; technology could be a great ally if the teacher uses it when and how it is necessary. It is true that some voices say that there is no enough evidence that using this technological staff improves student’s results. Matt Richtel discusses this idea in his paper “In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores” published in 2011 in The New York Times. However, we have to recognize that, being true that students have learnt in other times without technology, 21st Century students are living in a world full of technology and have to be prepared to their future life in this environment.

In spite of this presence of technology in our normal lives, is important to clearly state the reasons why it is necessary to use technology in an educational context.  Kussmaul et al. (1996) enunciate as the main reasons the following: improvement of communication, access to information, and effective presentation of materials. They maintain that technologies can help address these widely accepted goals in instructional development.  John Page, a software designer and author of the free online geometry textbook  Math Open Reference, has compiled ten fundamental reasons for technology in education and he states that “if education is about knowledge and intellectual skills, then information technology lies at the heart of it all. We have only just begun this transition. School will eventually look very different. Get ready.”

Web 2.0 and 21st Century teachers

It is true that computers and the use of internet are not new but the web, as we know it nowadays, is a recent phenomena. Before, the technology was at the service of data, today it is at the service of people. This is the great change of the web 2.0. It is a social collaborative web where people and communication is the core of the system. The key element is participation and powerful and accessible technological tools make that participation possible for everybody. Blogs, wikis and forums, social tag and Google combine themselves to generate a network of shared knowledge with a potent social collaborative component. In this context, a question could be asked: what type of abilities the teachers should have to be the leaders of this new educational age. In this paper I will explore the kind of expertise that is necessary to become a technological teacher.

emergent_21st_century_teacher

A 21st Century teacher has to teach different. It is not a question of technology but a question of philosophy. Teachers from all levels have to move aside and put their students in first place; their learning and their thinking. So, active, collaborative, and significant learning should be the guideline of their teaching decisions. Regardless of what types of teaching methods they use, teacher’s shining star should be that their students think about relevant problems and actively solve them with others. So, firstly, teachers need the skill to create significant learning experiences for their students. They must know how to design activities which promote students’ curiosity and push them to look for new information, use new resources and collaborate with others. Of course, these imply that teacher is not more “the sage at the stage”, the one who has the knowledge and transmits it to the students, but a “guide on the side”(King, 1993). Teachers transform in someone who help students to construct their own knowledge from the information that is out there anywhere in the world.

Of course, anybody could argue that all these could be done without technology. That is true, but it is also true that web 2.0 tools can incredibly help teachers in their function. It easily promotes collaboration between students; facilitate the search of information and speed up the sharing of new contents. A lot of work is more efficiently done with technology. This saves class time that can be alternatively used by teachers and students to think, apply, analyze, and discuss. So, a second important skill that teachers need is to be digital literate: being able to use a computer, not only to write or to present a power point, but to design learning networks; being able to surf in the web using the social and collaborative tools; being able to manage virtual learning environments; in conclusion, being able to blog, post, tag, wiki, twitter, ….and be willing to learn if they do not know even from their students. This is, in my opinion, central to move towards teaching expertise in a digital world: the real desire to learn new things. A teacher has to be an eternal student with the curiosity for new things and how these novelties could improve her teaching performance.

In conclusion, achieving expertise in a profession like this demands personal and professional evolution, study, refreshing courses, and participation in learning networks; implies thinking in others and their difficulties to go from unawareness to knowledge, a process in which teachers are already experts.

References

Kussmaul, Clif;  Dunn, Jason; Bagley, Michael & Watnik , Mitchell (1996). Using Technology in Education, College Teaching , Vol. 44, Iss. 4. DOI:10.1080/87567555.1996.9932338

Page, John (2007). Ten Fundamental Reasons for technology in education, Tech Learning e-magazin,  March.

Ritchel, Matt (2011). In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores, The New York Times, September.

King, Alison (1993). From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side, College Teaching, vol. 41, No. 1, pp. 30-35.

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