The Changing Role of Teaching in Today’s Internet World

In days past, teachers were viewed as the ones you go to learn a specific topic.  If you wanted to know Math, you went to a Math teacher.  If you wanted to learn about English literature, you would talk to your English literature teacher.  Or if you were getting a business degree in college, you went to your core of business professors, and there you would learn how to think about and build a business. Has technology interfered with expertise?

Technology can open avenues of learning through processing of information

Book knowledge supplemented by the Internet
Teachers can engage students with textbook knowledge and experience supplemented by more current knowledge from the Internet.

Case in point:  In this past week, I had someone service my guitar and install some new electronics.  I was more than curious about the procedure; so, I went to, selected the specific electronics I wanted installed and watched a video of the entire process.

When I went to pick up the guitar, I referred to a specific feature of the electronics and the very experienced technician told me that the feature I mentioned was not in these electronics.   However, to check, he went to the owner’s manual then found that the feature was actually a part of what was installed in my guitar.  He looked at me, thanked me, and said, “ I learned something today I did not know!”

In a changing world of information and technology, it is just hard for anyone to keep up with current knowledge 

One of my sons was in a business class with a seasoned professor.  My son is an avid reader and absorber of technology.  For the class, he read the textbook (which is typically outdated just due to publication time) but also read several other books on the specific topic. When he talked to me, he referred to the fact that the professor’s perspective was dated and he should read more current literature on his topic. In my son’s mind, the credibility of what was being taught was suspect due to the amount of publications proving his point that he could access via the internet in just a few minutes.

It is important for all of us to realize how access of information changes our society.  But for teachers, it is not only a reality but an essential change in their roles.

No longer are teachers the only sources of information

Once children reach an age to use the Internet, they can access a world of information and knowledge that is beyond comprehension in scope.  This “accessibility” can sometimes lead them to rely on their own sense of autonomy and thus lessen their respect for their teacher’s role as expert.

As we know from child and teen development, their sense of autonomy is important for growth, and even though they may be immature, it is a huge goal for their developing brains.

Although this new role may be extremely frustrating for teachers, it can be reframed positively: teachers need to use this changing role to have greater impact in the lives of our children and teenagers.

Classrooms can become process-oriented

That is, classrooms can be a platform for translating information and discerning a myriad knowledge, allowing teachers to engage their students.  Teachers can measure how effectively information is being transferred to memory and perspective through discussion and sharing. They can help students make sense of the world by guiding them with their wisdom and experience.

Teachers can offer students a way to see the world, to filter information through values and consider with hope how what they learn can shape their place in the world, show them they can make an impact.

With this engagement process, teachers can help students identify their strengths as well as gaps, and how they best can regulate their changing brains to adapt their capabilities to find success.  They can help students discover deeper truths about life—an ability all children need—and to apply this knowledge to life’s situations of consequences and outcomes that they can measure and feel good about.

Yes, the role of teaching is changing, and it may be uncomfortable for many teachers.  Yet, there is so much more we can do to inspire students. We can help them seize amazing opportunities and develop them into a meaningful and purposeful life. This really moves us toward the mentorship role which creates a whole new sphere of influence. What excitement!

Yes, the role of teaching is really changing!

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network



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