Provoking NOT Providing Learning

I am listening to Stephen Heppel’s keynote speech for the Learning K12 conference.  He has been going through a brief history of using technologies in learning.  It is often said that the use of technologies in the classroom changes the role of the teacher but the nature of this change is often not clearly articulated.  I was therefore particularly interested in an expression that Stephen came up with during his speech which helps, I think, define the nature of this change.  If we are trying to move students towards more inquiry based learning approaches where students are asked to construct their understanding, do teachers become redundant?

For those that may feel that the role of the teacher somehow diminishes due to technology based learning Stephen’s speech may be encouraging.  He mentions that teachers are “catalysts for learning” and that their function is to PROVOKE learning rather than PROVIDE learning.  I thought this was a very useful construction to take forward when discussing the nature of pedagogical change with colleagues.  The question then becomes, by what mechanisms do teachers scaffold these provocations?

One of the other interesting points he goes on to talk about is the connection between the current financial crisis and  what this reflects in the changing nature of education.  He talks about the demise of the “they” and the birth of the “we”.  How this affects the design of school and curriculum, even the very idea of school and curriculum are under threat in this new world that the global financial crisis has painfully shown us we live in.  The idea of global connectivity is as real for education as it is for finance.  He suggests that if new models of learning is not embraced then education itself will collapse in the same way the financial systems have.  This might be the death of education, but it is the birth of learning!

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