From the archives, September 14, 2005:
What I realized more clearly last night is that for many teachers, the idea of teaching kids to be able to access information and find mentors and communities of practice basically means teaching themselves out of their jobs, at least as they know it. I mean, at some point, we’re going to have to let go of the idea that we are the most knowledgable content experts available to our students. We used to be, when really all our students had access to was the textbook and the teacher’s brain. But today, we’re not. Not by a long stretch. And we don’t need to be. What we need to be is connectors who can teach our kids how to connect to information and to sources, how to use that information effectively, and how to manage and build upon the learning that comes with it. That’s a much different role than “science teacher” or “math teacher.” Now I’m not saying that subject matter expertise is irrelevant and that there aren’t core concepts that discipline specific teachers shouldn’t teach. But they should be taught it a much wider context, not in the fishbowl this is our traditional classroom.
It still strikes me how little this conversation seems to have changed, over the past 11 years in this case. How many teachers currently see themselves as connectors? As curators? As models for learning?
I wonder what I’ll be writing about this 11 years from now…
David Marcovitz says
Will, you have been blogging about this type of idea for a while. Do you have any examples of schools that actually do this? I ask because I would like to share some examples with my students (who are teachers).
Steve Goldberg says
Hey Will and David — so here’s a cool teacher-as-curator story. I teach at a charter school in North Carolina. Last year, when I was teaching US History, I mentioned that a new movie got great reviews at Sundance — it’s a movie coming out this October called “The Birth of a Nation.” It’s about Nat Turner’s slave revolt in 1831, which we were learning about. One of my students said “I think my sister is in that movie.” Turns out, she is. She’s an actress living in Hollywood named Katie Garfield, and she plays the role of Katherine Turner — a daughter of the family that owns Nat Turner. She sees the atrocities of her family while facing her own challenges as a woman in 19th century America. My student connected us via email, and I facilitated a Skype conversation between her and two of my classes. It was really cool, and really generous of Katie (it was 7 a.m. in California for the first class). My students learned all sorts of things — particularly about the role of women in the 1830s. Katie explained how she had to not talk with her hands — she had to act like a woman would act and speak in the 1830s — in a way that tried to not call attention to herself — which is very different from how she talks today. But I hope the big lesson my students learned is that *they* can reach out to the world to learn from other experts. I try to model that sort of curiosity about the world all the time. It helped that a) I read about the movie, and b) I know a good bit about history so I could make the connection. This year, I’m going to make my students make the connections — I’m actually going to grade them on the quality of resources (articles, YouTube clips, people such as Katie) they can provide to help our class learn about history. Should be a cool year. Thanks, Will, for pushing my thinking for the past 10+ years 🙂
Will Richardson says
I think Steve gives a great example, and you should check out the work of Kathy Cassidy, Pernille Ripp, Kevin Jarrett, Bill Ferriter and many others who are making this happen in their classrooms.
In terms of entire schools, that’s a harder question as most still have not fully evolved to the point of bringing the world in via the Web as a norm. Bloomfield Hills in Michigan has made “connecting learners to the world” a part of its vision, and there are others who are beginning to have those conversations. But it’s still pretty hit or miss as far as I can tell.
Thanks for the question.
David Marcovitz says
Thanks for the tips. I recognized the name Kevin Jarrett. I had a really fascinating conversation with him on the Ed Tech listerv about 10 years ago about social media for kids. Here is the link to that discussion: http://tinyurl.com/36f5gp
Mark Poole says
Here’s a good example of shifting the focus from one of teaching to one of learning. http://freakonomics.com/podcast/freakonomics-radio-how-is-a-bad-radio-station-like-the-public-school-system/