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This blog was started as my reflections on the 2011 Change MOOC. It is now an on going journal of my thoughts on Higher Education, specifically teaching Biology.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The role of the teacher...

Shukies post distributed if not contributed brought up a point that has been on my mind since #change11 began.
The charismatic, eloquent, nurtuting side of teaching is part of many cultural backgrounds - what forms of knowledge transfer, what craetive skills, will replace them in a networked, web based approach?
It seems to me that the loss of the eloquent instructor and the nurturing teacher would be a grave loss for education. Beyond cultural backgrounds, we learn through communication. This is one reason why the concepts behind the MOOC appear so powerful. Combining social connection and reflective practices to learning has amazing potential, but even with mass amounts of digital resources and feedback, there is still a need for a human connection. The MOOC, as with all forms of distance learning, can leave a person feeling that they are struggling alone. One problem is the desire for critique. While most of us don't like criticism (negative connotation here), we do like feedback that tells us we are on track, but also encourages or inspires us to greater achievements. The eternal ney sayer or yes man as feedback is soul draining and unproductive. I think we all yearn to have that nurturing confirmation that we are doing something right.
Teachers also help inspire our communications. Isn't there some teacher or professor in your background that you wanted to be like? Or a teacher you hope you are never compared to? Did you learn eloquence from your parents alone, or was your communication style molded by your teachers and mentors? One role of the teacher is to help students build, develop, mature, and stretch their communication skills.
Ultimately, I believe that our greatest role as educators is to become mentors.