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.

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4 thoughts on “Can we learn without teachers? #CFHE12

  1. Agreed, and thanks for reading my blog! I think it’s too far in the pessimistic direction to think everything is about venture capital and profit, and that technology such as the MOOC will kill teachers. At the same time, the ignorance of pedagogy in a number of spaces (sometimes administration, but teachers as well — the sage on the stage — however, in these days usually on the business/economic side of the mode) is something to worry about…looking at Big Data without understanding what the questions are is a recipe for disaster. There are big questions to answer, but IMO Big Data is looking to skirt that for short-term $$.

    • Much agreed! If we are going to miss the wood for the trees, then yes we will certainly be writing a recipe for disaster. The question is… how can we drive this type of culture change amongst administrators and decision makers? Is this even possible?

    • Wow! Philip I would really like to thank you for this link. I just managed to read the prologue and honestly it is such a powerful read – so inspiring and as I read, I keep thinking – but this is the way it is even in small old Malta. Thank you for sharing this. I will definitely keep reading it… again I just want to say that I never lose hope. I am one of the academics, teaching at the University of Malta, trying to give my share in educating people who tomorrow will become teachers. I would like to think, that at one point I might help in spreading out the passion for Education that comes with looking at the individual first, at the child, kid or any learner of any age, before thinking at anything else.

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