I’ve just finished re-reading Jeff Howe’s 2008 book Crowdsourcing. It struck me as I reached the end of the book that many of today’s digital natives will become tomorrow’s teachers. The question then becomes what impact or influence will digital natives have on shaping the role of teachers and the nature of teaching.
I’ve been reflecting on the role of teachers in today’s world for some time but after reading Howe I wondered if the role of teachers and their work will inevitably change in a decade because the nature of the learner has changed?
Howe asserts that today’s kids who Prensky coined as digital natives will create ‘wholesale changes to the workforce when they enter the labor force.’ Why? Because as Howe writes by the time they reach adulthood they will bring “behaviours and attitudes honed through thousands of hours in front of a computer, constructing their own experience and working collaboratively in various online communities.”
It begs the next question, will the next generation of teachers be all things to all students or will crowdsourcing become the norm? It may be blue-sky thinking for the education community now but the concept of crowdsourcing is becoming increasingly prevalent.
Two years ago, I read an article in the Harvard Business Review on the competition to design the Beijing Olympics’ spectacular Water Cube. It was in fact a structural engineer from Sydney that won the competition through what could be considered as crowdsourcing. The author of the article refers to it as ‘teaming’ – assembling experts from various disciplines to solve a challenge encountered for the first time. It’s a worth a read.
We cannot ignore the growing use and legitimacy of teaming and crowdsourcing. The challenge I see is how we can incorporate these capabilities into the practice of teaching now. Could we respond to student learning needs in a more effective way by bringing diverse experts in to work with teachers temporarily? Would teaming be a better way of utilising casual teachers who could convene quickly to solve challenges not only within one school but across several schools? Would this give teachers greater flexibility to deliver individualised learning?
The future of teaching demands that we do something different and innovative now. The way forward will require us to give greater weight to developments in brain theory, learning theory and evidence-based research. This understanding coupled with the tools to support the work of teachers will hopefully lead to new understanding of teaching and a more flexible, dynamic response to schooling.