It’s time to stop thinking in crises. Yes, we are facing unusual rates of change and tragedy. But none of it was unforeseeable. Yes, most of us were unprepared, but not because there were no plans laid out already. Many are struggling, but not because there wasn’t a mentality and a path to boot, available for collaboration and coordination within our communities, that would ensure our mutual well-being and proactive problem-solving.
If there is accountability to place, it is in our own processes. We’re often the victim of nothing but our own ways. The trouble is, an essential trait of the old ways is self-preservation. The drive and bias towards things as usual, in all its flawed glory. We spend more time and energy focusing on how to keep what we have, than how to move forward. Not a great philosophy for a crowd whose mission is to cultivate the minds of future innovators and world changers. Now, we’re thinking that we’re in a crisis. To many it is the perfect excuse to reconsider some of the things we used to do before. Not for everyone, not in particular for those who fail to see and embrace opportunity. For those who do, the crisis mindset prevents from adopting a more resilient, long-term oriented perspective. It’s time to stop thinking in crises.
Crisis mindsets are not sustainable. Sticking to the old ways is a mistake for as long as we remain held onto them. We might have been used to them, and past generations might have too, for their whole lives. But that doesn’t mean it was sustainable to do so. To the old ways we owe climate change, sytemic social injustice, corruption, threats to freedom, name calling. What is the solution, the beginning of it anyway? Realizing that times will keep changing, that old ways are a poor reference for the present, and that in education especially, the future is the result of mindfulness over the present, optimism about an unprecedented future, and disciplined alignment between micro-actions and micro-goals.
3 roles to shelf for good even if things go back to what they used to (ps. They won’t)
Teacher as Lecturer
Speaking of old ways, how about going back to a current practice dating from the Middle Ages?
“Lectures pander to the vanity of the lecturers” said Virginia Woolf in the early XX Century. A sentiment that has not stopped being shared since then, but that never turned into decisive action.
But does that mean the lecture deserves to be eradicated? No. Much like what radio —and then TV, and then YouTube— did for theater, online learning —and YouTube— is doing for the lecture: It will make outstanding performances accessible to thousands of times more people, while a lucky elite will continue to enjoy a more intimate, but ultimately equally effective learning experience.
Teacher as Forced Scheduler
Given all the options and more interactive alternatives, why are dozens of students still forced to show up at the same time, only to doze off or drift that much more easily.
Should there never be a moment where all class participants need to attend? Not at all! But it should not be mandatory. And then, the idea about lectures should apply: It could still exist if it must, but there should be also alternatives that leverage better ways to interact with content.
It is clear that flipped learning is a perfect example of how live time driven by student inquiry is that much more valuable than one-directional talk through multi-dimensional means. In short: Schedule a live time if it will be more engaging and effective than the alternative, and let its own value be the reason why students join rather than because they have to.
Teacher as Source of Knowledge
One that could not be more obvious, yet one so hard to convince especially for those who have fought so hard to become a reference in their fields.
But the reality is simple. There is more information to digest than any person, however qualified, can synthesize and distill for their class before it becomes obsolete.
Disinformation is no longer a surprising outcome but an orchestrated effort. A weapon. And with the volumes we’re managing today, even the most authoritative sources fail to be correct 100% of the time. A deeper interaction with the internet would not be safe without reinforcing evidence evaluation, primary sources, replication and related skills.
3 roles to embrace (in) the New Normal
Teacher as Curator
The teacher is no longer needed as a gate-keeper, but as a gateway giver and opener. They are called to open minds, and give little pushes to students as they bridge the requirements of their learning plans with content and interactivity provided, guided or vetted by them.
Teacher as Smart Iterator
In the age of LMS Data, each decision made by a teacher without checking whether available evidence indicates it’s right or wrong is a step in the dark. The modular, open ecosystem, and in particular the rise of cloud-based services, should be seen as an invitation for bold experimentation, to plug and remix content, tools and approaches as imaginatively as possible, and to move ahead according to available evidence.
Teacher as Collaborator in Well-Being-Oriented Teams
No teacher is an island. And when we look at the LMS as the epicenter of a broader, more global experience, we can begin to appreciate that we are able to connect more meaningfully and productively with a larger and diverse set of mindsets, personalities and skills. The collective brain of elearning has never been this powerful.
Perhaps part of a decisive effort to get out more of the global collaboration networks —and in doing so, strengthening them— is to visualize the components of a successful educational experience, and let passionate experts choose the task at which they excel. While some love the interaction with groups of students, or even one-on-one, others find themselves more comfortable sharpening content, which as part of a network it guarantees to be reaching a critical mass orders of magnitude higher. At scale, other important but downplayed roles can also start to be taken seriously. We’ve already stressed how valuable would LMS Data analysis would be for students and institutions. Assessment designers, competency weavers or even ROI on learning consultants could have more resources to work with, and benefit more people.