Out with the old, in with the new? Questions concerning the role of the teacher in 21st century education.
In: EDUCA Berlin 2008, 3-5 December 2008, Berlin.
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As I began outlining this proposal, serendipity struck in the shape of two relatively heated conversations about Open Educational Resources (OERs) and the idea of the Web 2.0, one with a colleague in my own institution who has a respectable track record in innovative uses of educational technologies, another with a freelance learning facilitator, a very experienced professional who is currently engaged in full-time voluntary work. 'Without a teacher, learning is difficult and, often, impossible'. 'It took me six months to find my way around something I could have learnt in a week, if I had some stepping stones'. 'Even strongly motivated groups of learners quickly collapse without a teacher'. I was reminded of another widespread view, of the Web generally, and OERs, in particular, as 'a modern version of a library'. In a world in which marketing and media discourses are strongly represented in widespread ideas such as 'content is free; it's a matter of editorialising', what is the role of such a library? Crucially, is there anything left for the 'teacher' in this scenario?
I would like to offer some preliminary findings from my current research in the area of engagement with OERs, which I am locating in terms of 'online informal learning'. These findings are based on a reflection on conversations such as those mentioned above as well as from an ongoing case-study of a learning situation located at the interface between 'informal' and 'formal' learning. I would like to offer some of my understandings and questions for broader discussion, aiming, in particular, to unpack, with illustrative examples taken from the context provided by my research, the question 'are traditional teachers now obsolete or can they adapt to new styles of teaching and training?'
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