Stephen Downes visits Norway

We don’t need no educators

Stephen Downes, Ann S. Michaelsen, Ingrid Melve, Yngve Nordkvelle, Morten F. Paulsen

The title for the talk given by Stephen Downes might have been provocative for many teachers. At this particular conference, aimed at distance learning institutions, the title was to the point! I was excited to be able to see Stephen Downes and excited about joining the panel discussion. His views might be difficult to adopt, since he is advocating free online education and suggesting this will be the alternative to our traditional school. But in the end he did reassure us as say that it is impossible to change the existing system in one move. In fact that would be rather stupid! He started his lecture reassuring the audience that educators will not be replaced with robots, but a wide variety of people. The role of the teacher is going to be too complex for one person he said. He went on discussing if this often quoted sentence really is true? “The single most important factor affecting students achievement is the teacher”. Stephen Downes says; “The problem with focusing on the role of the teacher, from my perspective, is that it misses the point. Though there may still be thousands of people employed today with the job title of “teacher” or “educator”, it is misleading to suggests that all, or even most, aspects of providing an education should, or could, be placed into the hands of these individuals

The real impact on learning is according to Downes parental income, social economic factors, role models in society, equity in society, genetic predisposition, childhood nutrition and social environment. A lot is going on besides what happens with the teacher and student.

Objectives of the talk, threefold task

1. Pull apart the roles of the educator in an online world
2. Identify those roles in the context of the massive online courses
3. Provide practical examples and applications

The traditional role of the teacher is going to change more and more in the future. There are a lot of different roles that should be met by teachers.

Educators are no longer the only experts in their fields, this is a fact that is agreed on by many, and that alone changes the role of the teacher dramatically in my opinion. Also the fact that learning is no longer about content transfer. Teaching should take place in an authentic environment.
Learning consists of engagement, experimentation and communication.

This is the classroom of the future, moving beyond the idea that learning is acquiring some kind of content and stuffing it in your head! We learn by doing and creating. Learning takes place in an authentic environment consistent with the type of learning that is taking place.

Stephen Downes went on to discuss the different roles that should be met in this new learning environment. The teacher as both a mentor, coach and facilitator. The teacher as a learner is important because things change so dramatically and so fast and you will fall behind as a teacher if you are not an avid learner. Another important role today is the teacher as a collector. I can certainly recognize the importance of this role. The collector uses Goggle reader as an RSS feed and aggregates content from multiple authors to keep up with trends and what is being discussed today. He also showed us how we could download his RSS feed via :  RSS makes gathering content a lot more manageable and easy, allowing you to function in the role as collector.

How to Import OPML Files in the new Google Reader:

  1. Click here and save the file on your computer
  2. In Google reader click on subscriptions, click on arrow on right side!
  3. Chose manage subscriptions
  4. Chose import/export
  5. Select an opml file to uplaod. You have to remember where you saved the file.

Another role I can relate to is the role of the connector, connecting with other people in your field. Connecting is the axis of connectivism. Our knowledge is stored not just in books and articles. Knowledge is stored in the people. Learning is connecting and interacting with that community. Encourage people to set up a twitter account. This was also one of my main points talking at the leadership conference in Oslo last week. I think it is really important to connect with educators around the world, build a personal learning network and start learning from others!

I think I will leave it at that for now. The panel discussion was fun, but not enough time for real discussions, and I would have enjoyed listening to Stephen Downes at least another hour. It is too bad that he came all the way from Canada and only got an hour! But luckily a lot of his material is to be found online. The presentation can be found here.

This day I reached my new goal which is to be an active learner and to learn something new every day! I know how to download and save an opml file and I am reading Stephen Downes’ RSS files. I should be able to learn something new every day, as long as I take the time to read some of these RSS feeds! (2555!). A new gadget Stephen commented on is made by Jawbone, the UP. We discussed it during dinner! He has only written about it and has yet to try it! I think it will be the number one Christmas present this year! At least for geeks like me!


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