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Teacher 2.0: distributed learning and their disruption of the old institutional models

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
18th March 2010

George Siemens describes how networks disrupt traditional teaching:

The old model, he writes, “works well when we can centralize both the content (curriculum) and the teacher. The model falls apart when we distribute content and extend the activities of the teacher to include multiple educator inputs and peer-driven learning. Simply: social and technological networks subvert the classroom-based role of the teacher. Networks thin classroom walls. Experts are no longer “out there” or “over there”. Skype brings anyone, from anywhere, into a classroom. Students are not confined to interacting with only the ideas of a researcher or theorist. Instead, a student can interact directly with researchers through Twitter, blogs, Facebook, and listservs. The largely unitary voice of the traditional teacher is fragmented by the limitless conversation opportunities available in networks. When learners have control of the tools of conversation, they also control the conversations in which they choose to engage.

Course content is similarly fragmented. The textbook is now augmented with YouTube videos, online articles, simulations, Second Life builds, virtual museums, Diigo content trails, StumpleUpon reflections, and so on.

What is the impact of conversation/content fragmentation?

Traditional courses provide a coherent view of a subject. This view is shaped by “learning outcomes” (or objectives). These outcomes drive the selection of content and the design of learning activities. Ideally, outcomes and content/curriculum/instruction are then aligned with the assessment. It’s all very logical: we teach what we say we are going to teach, and then we assess what we said we would teach. This cozy comfortable world of outcomes-instruction-assessment alignment exists only in education. In all other areas of life, ambiguity, uncertainty, and unkowns reign.

Fragmentation of content and conversation is about to disrupt this well-ordered view of learning. Educators and universities are beginning to realize that they no longer have the control they once (thought they) did. “

2. So what is the new role of the teacher? Influencing …

George Siemens then describes the alternative emerging role for educators:

“Given that coherence and lucidity are key to understanding our world, how do educators teach in networks? For educators, control is being replaced with influence. Instead of controlling a classroom, a teacher now influences or shapes a network.

The following are roles teacher play in networked learning environments:

1. Amplifying
2. Curating
3. Wayfinding and socially-driven sensemaking
4. Aggregating
5. Filtering
6. Modelling
7. Persistent presence”

This seven aspects are elaborated in the original article.


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