Sunday, 26 April 2015

The future of teachers in the classroom in developing countries

The change in the educational landscape with the most far reaching effects is the adoption and use of Information and Communication Technologies in classrooms. Of course, these effects may be more visible in the developed world than in the developing world, which for the obvious reason, are lagging behind the developed world in the wide scale adoption and use of technology in the classroom.

Michael Godsey in an article in The Atlantic asks the question: When kids can get their lessons from the Internet, what's left for classroom instructors to do? In this article, he presents his vision of the future of education and the role of the teacher in his envisioned future educational landscape. Read God set's article here.

For many teachers today, their role in the classroom is unambiguous. They see their role in the following light:

  • to physically attend school each day
  • to prepare lessons before hand
  • to deliver these lessons face to face to their students,
  • to assess their students' learning, mostly through tests,
  • to mark hundreds of books and/or papers daily
  • to do routine administrative tasks like marking registers and updating grade books
  • to meet with parents at least once a year
  • to interact with their peers, go home, then return to do it all over again the next day, week, year
    This has been the routine of many teachers over the years and many of them are satisfied with this routine.

    Godsey, however, speculates  that in the very near future, the role of the teacher may be severely marginalised. This is likely since:
  • knowledge via the Internet is at students' fingertips and
    • because for profit companies have assumed some of the roles of the teachers like creating lesson plans and other teaching resources, as well as delivering content on either the many Massive Online Open Courses platforms (MOOCs) or by way of any of the other platforms that online providers of education have been using to provide education to students from the high school to the college level,
    So, Godsey envisions the typical future classroom in the (US?). This classroom may have a giant screen where lessons are beamed to the students, incorporating interactive technologies. The students will watch these lessons and then a teacher may be employed to guide them to complete the learning tasks.

    Or, what many teachers may see as an untenable situation may unfold. Instead of a teacher in the classroom, there may only be a technical person fulfilling the role of the teacher, but who comes with a much lower price tag.

    What would have caused this gentleman to envisage this scenario? He has been watching the technological developments in the educational landscape, led by private enterprises which have seized, and are seizing opportunities to profit from what may be described as the deregulation of the education sector in many societies, especially in a number of developed societies.

    As mentioned before, there are companies that specialise in providing content for the clasroom. This content comes in many forms, but one is the mass production of lesson plans on every subject. Teachers can, and have been visiting these sites to download lesson plans free or for a minimal fee.

    In addition, there are companies that have specialised in creating and/or managing schools, and their reach has extended outside of the developed world.

    Moreover, there are companies that provide all the functions that the teachers now provide on virtual platforms.

    Most importantly, governments have been endorsing these providers to provide education to their populace at almost all levels of the education system (kindergarten seems to be exempt at this time). But, what may stir up some alarm in teachers is that the public education system has joined the party. Godsey provides statistics to show the increased number of high school students in the USA who have been taking online courses as part of their course of study in high school. This number is expected to rise.

    Are there any lessons here for teachers in developing countries? There are many. The problem is that many of us in developing countries do not take a long term view of events. It is only when they catch up with us that we begin to react.

    Is there a possibility that the job of the teacher in developing countries will be threatened in the next twenty years or so? There is the distinct possibility. Donor agencies and other philanthropic organisations will lead the way for the education systems in developing countries to climb on the virtual schools bandwagon by donating the tools and providing the training, but we know how that will work out, unless there are some serious changes in our modes of operating.

    One thing is clear, though. Technology is changing the way that we operate in many, if not all sectors of society, and it has been playing a significant role in our homes - think our "smart" televisions and other "smart" appliances.

    It is affecting the way that schools operate. The role of the teacher is already being influenced with the introduction of new teaching methodologies - from flipped classrooms, blended learning, project based learning and so on (Read Godsey's article).

    To what extent have we in the developing world been experimenting with the new educational technologies? The future impact on teachers is yet to be determined, but teachers should keep their eyes, ears and minds open to what is happening in the world of education at home and abroad. They don't want to be caught off guard. As, Godsey suggests, teachers and their unions need to rouse themselves from their state of complacency

    Join the conversation! Share your thoughts on this issue in the comments section below.