Can we learn without teachers? #CFHE12

I am writing this post in reply to a post I just came across in one of the #CFHE12 twitter feeds – “MOOCs and the Teaching Profession“. This post triggered some thoughts that I had to express in writing. It is true that as I can see it, some University admin, and other educational admin tend to forget all about the importance of learning, the democratic notions of applying pedagogy in the humane sense.

It is also a fact, as I see it, that Governments revel in numbers… expenditures to them mean investment in Education. However, in my opinion, the real investment is not in the tools, in the buildings, in the new and polished structures, not even in the technologies that can be used.

The investment in Education lies in the teachers. The article quotes someone saying – after all teaching is not a profession. I think it is true you know… teaching is not JUST a profession… teaching IS a vocation – someone, a teacher, is driven by a passion towards helping people become better individuals through Education… that is where the real return-on-investment in my humble opinion lies. It is true, that as the article states, there are those people who are thinking that MOOCs and the likes, online Education, eLearning, etc. will effectively replace teachers. They will also quote projects like the Hole in the Wall by Sugata Mitra, possibly. But they will also quite possibly fail to quote the second part of that Professor Mitra talks about in the video I have linked – the ‘granny cloud‘, as young learners are motivated to explore the depths of their knowledge by themselves acting as teachers to grannies.

Maybe yes, the role of the teacher as the ‘sage on the stage’ may vanish. I am sure and I believe that that role should be the first to vanish.
But this doesn’t mean that the teachers vanish. The teachers, as guides, as mentors, as people helping other people making ‘connections‘ in learning – at whatever level of Education – will always be needed.

What is an MOOC without the right direction? Or rather as the article itself states, how deep will the learning-after-an-MOOC, run if it is not built upon the foundations of learning theories? I am sure that there will always be those decision makers who don’t really care about all this. I am sure, that just as they exist now, there are decisions makers who wouldn’t care about anything as long as nobody complains or as long as they have numbers to brag about – whether financial or human.
However I think that opposing these decision makers, there should be people who keep fighting so that the role of teachers in the learning that belongs to the 21st century society is not only supported but is also upheld as a vital position, without which Education would greatly risk becoming impoverished.