Last week in class we started to examine Web 2.0 and the implications for our classrooms of using the internet in a new, more collaborative and generative way. Rather than being merely a repository – a rather large repository, granted – for information which we can access as the need arises, Web 2.0 seems to be more about making connections to other users, sharing information, creating content, and collaborating with users from different parts of the world. This is also an issue that has repeatedly surfaced as I do research on the effects of digital technology on the Arts and Art education.
As the Web is re-tooled (and for some it’s always been this way, for others like me, it’s been a shift in thinking) to meet these new uses, and as information is more readily accessible to all of us, are human teachers becoming more and more irrelevant? The teacher and academia are no longer the sole bastion of our collective knowledge – anyone connected has access now. Students are able to search not only for information online but to also connect with networks of people who can help them make sense of that information. In this environment, what will be the role of educator/teacher? Will we be redundant? a quaint old-fashioned notion? As a mid-career changing, first semester graduate student, this question is particularly relevant. Tuition spent on a Master’s degree with the intent of joining a profession falling by the wayside could be better spent. As a first-semester graduate student who believes that teaching and guiding younger generations to master their the skills and abilities is one of the most important jobs in our society, this question is paramount to my future.
I was recently sent a link to a TEDTalk on YouTube, given my Simon Sinek. In the talk, Simon examines the idea of trust between human beings in a business model. But at a certain point in the video, he segues to a theme that I think we have all been wrestling with, both in our EDTS 523 course and as we look at how we have changed our social behavior with more and more technology use. You can view the section of the video that I refer to here. This portion of the video also holds the answers to my queries above. Educators can remain relevant and avoid redundancy IF we can adapt to new paradigms of interacting with information brought about by the use of technology. Educators can and will remain relevant and necessary, I believe, because as Simon says (pun not intended) in the lecture “nothing replaces human contact” and “our very survival depends on our ability to interact with human beings.” I believe this to be true. Human beings need contact with other human beings. And while digital technology has helped shift the way students can and do learn, while there are different challenges teachers face in light of this technology, I believe that it cannot replace the unique ability we have to communicate with each other when we physically share the same space for a common purpose.