The evolving role of the digitally-enabled teacher


From the early 1820s until the end of the 20th Century learning in schools and universities have largely gone unchanged. During the same period of time, we’ve seen remarkable change in technology – the invention of the electric light, the telephone, the internal combustion engine, air travel, personal computing, the internet to name a few – but broadly speaking, how we taught students then, and how we teach students now, is quick similar.

But with the technological advancement we are witnessing in the 21st Century, the global education system is changing radically as it becomes more and more integrated with technology, and for good reason. As we move forward, rote learning has seemingly zero value in the digital era – the industry just doesn’t need it.

So as 21st century education moves from knowledge-based to skills-based, the role of the digitally-enabled teacher will ultimately be dependent on their ability to make their lessons effective outside the classroom, instead of in it. Here are some key transformations digital teaching is bringing to education as we know it:

Skills over Knowledge

In this competitive digital world with diverse career options and technical disciplines, what the student of today needs more than ever before are teachers who are able to impart skills and guidance with the purpose of future employability. The 4C’s of Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration and Creativity will be the terms that the digitally-enabled teacher will most need to nurture in their students because the ability of the student to demonstrate these aptitudes will have applications regardless of their eventual career. It goes without saying that in order to impart the 4C’s to one’s students, the teacher will have to continuously engage with their students by demonstrating them.

Resource Provision is Prime

There will be much less onus on a teacher to be a specialist in an academic discipline, and much more on the teacher’s ability to guide the discovery of the student using the breadth and depth of resources available online. Teachers will have to occupy a collaborative position with the individual learner and impart the skills needed for students to find their own learning resources. If the student has an interest in a specific topic, the teacher need not be an expert in the topic to aid the student in the learning journey. Rather, they would best be suited by aiding the learner in the pursuit and discovery thereof, supporting them with additional materials and a keener mind for critical thought.

Technophiles Will be the Best Teachers

Given that the ubiquity of computers will increase exponentially over time, highly effective teachers will possess a healthy affinity for technology or risk being irrelevant to their learners. As technology advances and new tools emerge, it will be the role of the digital teacher to expose learners to these changes and they will only achieve that if they themselves have the curiosity to learn.

Additionally, the teacher will need to be well versed with problem-based learning and will routinely need to direct the student’s attention to a real-world approach to learning. Knowing how to write simple code is a great skill to acquire, but great teachers will enable their students to create code that has a positive and immediate application in the student’s life.

Students Drive the Educational Journey

A change to teaching also means a change to learning, none bigger than the ability for students to take ownership of their own educational journey. Owing to the fact that survival and employability in the digital era will be dependent on the student’s ability to continue learning well into adulthood, their education must involve independent online learning in their formative years. This will help increase the engagement of the learner by allowing them to dictate their own speed and volume of learning.

Good teachers will busy themselves with providing the human touch, aiding in the exploration of ideas from different perspectives, providing different variables to situations to enable learners to test their own hypotheses and respond to problems with creative approaches.

In Brunei, we are seeing many steps taken, in both the public and private schooling sectors, to bring a generation of  students through a schooling system that makes ample use of technology at every step of the way. We’re seeing chalkboards exchanged for interactive white boards; compulsory ICT classes for children throughout their primary schooling years, and increasing prevalence of secondary age students bringing in their own computing devices to aid in their learning experience. The key now is to standardise a technology-rich curriculum and teaching methodology across the board, to make sure the benefits of technology are enjoyed by youth across the nation.