Recently, a colleague sent me an opinion piece by Wendy Kopp that appeared on CNN’s website: Computers can’t replace real teachers. The point of Ms. Kopp’s article is extremely well made: Although powerful and exciting when applied in measured and meaningful ways, technology can never be allowed to overshadow the human element in the education equation – our nation’s teachers.
Technology adds another dimension to classroom
New educational technologies have the ability to energize students and educators alike, but newfound access and capability mean nothing without an engaged leader who can pull these tools together in a practical and meaningful way. That means the role of the teacher remains ever-important in the high technology learning environment. But there is one key difference. Perhaps in this new environment, the teacher’s role is becoming less traditional – shifting from that of “orator,” or the sole source for information, to more of a “facilitator/ mediator.”
Teachers facilitate learning through technology
This shift in role and in the teacher/student dialogue itself presents tremendous opportunity to deepen student learning and empowerment. When teachers become a facilitator to help students vet the most trustworthy pieces of information from electronic sources and in the public domain, and they engage in meaningful discussions about data points students uncover individually, once-challenging subjects can take on a whole new light.
SoundOut and Generation YES are two examples of participatory learning programs following the adage “to teach is to learn twice.” By encouraging students to leverage educational technology and to present personal research and findings alongside their teachers, today’s educators can give students the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of subjects than they might from note-taking and memorization alone. But make no mistake; technology plays a supporting role in these learning models as well. It’s still the teacher who brings it all together. Without a doubt, technology is changing how students learn, but it shouldn’t be a replacement for teachers. Technology can help energize and empower students in exciting new ways, and it can enhance and personalize a child’s learning experience – both in and outside of the classroom. In my view, that’s a helping hand virtually any teacher can appreciate.