I’ve been doing quite a lot of catching-up in the last couple of months. Doing all of that in a backward little ancient city island like Penang kept me dangerously complacent about the rapid changes happening between 2000 – 2009. Web 1.0 (1989-1999) was nothing to shout about but I left the big city when Web2.0 turned many things on their head.
There were 4 main fields I had to play catch up to : ESL, e-learning, marketing/economics and social media. It’s not just traditional marketing we’re talking about, it’s about how the entire scope of marketing and the logic of economics is now moving on a completely different tangent from what I knew about it back in 2000.
Not only did I have to know what tools are available, I have to be quickly informed about which variant of one tool is the most functional and effective. Blog authoring, video editing, presentations, collaboration tools, social media, ….the list goes on. I even had to learn the tools that help manage the information! (RSS, forums,torrents, wikis,rankings, polls).
The point I’m trying to make is that the last 3-4 months has been overwhelming for me. (I even learned to register and build a website – laying content for a website is a different story from creating a storyboard for a presentation!) I eventually realized the value of just focussing what i do best and get someone else to build me a great website.
In reflecting on the little progress I’ve made (I’ve got a wordpress blog, haven’t I?) on this steep learning curve, I realize the divide, between education and real-work functions in the 21st century, is a very wide and dangerous one.
- If a teacher is over age 30, they’re not likely to have used technology growing up, at least not until their college years.
- Without a certain level of computer literacy (proficiency in word, excel, powerpoint, basic DTP, video/audio editing, basic networking and troubleshooting), the idea of relying on a computer is not only awkward at the least but scary.
- A majority of educators with any kind of clout in their school (after completing the rituals of being accepted by the tribe at school) would have to be at least 30 by now. Those with teenaged relatives may try out email and Facebook, but most probably only to forward stuff and “add friends”. They would use MSN messenger and skype because it’s free and provided a way to be in touch with a loved one living far away.
The profile type of a typical candidate for a school teacher simply does not meet with the criterion expected of a 21st century educator. If viewed through the lens of cliches, I am an anti-teacher and I credit that for my uninterruptive, joyful, adventurous transition to 21st century learning. Not only did I not have resistance, I welcomed it as a push that took a long time coming.
The 21st century blended/ elearning world requires a different set of skills from those traditionally honed in an educator, or what a teaching candidate would’ve expected of themselves when they chose the career.
A 21st Century Educator would need to be :
- a cognitive architect
- a visual designer
- a natural leader
- able to engage the learners’ attention
- design lessons to motivate and interest the learner
- aware / have a good sense of the competency and expectations of the learner
- an intuitive collaborator
- an expert communicator (written)
- an expert communicator (oral)
- a multi-tasker (try handling a LIVE eclassroom, a lot of things have to be taken for granted, like knowing how to handle the hardware, so you can focus your attention not only on the multiple windows and tabs and messages scrolling, attendees waiting to get in, etc but also the lesson at hand!)
- AND be very visionary, imaginative and have an in-built risk-taking, synthesizing and critical mind. (Not that I’m saying I really am.
I think we cannot underestimate the level of multidisciplinary skills a 21st century educator is expected to have. On top of that, the entire scope of learning has to have a completely new “design architecture”. How does one get from There to There?
Expert Communicator + Visual Designer + IT Proficient + Highly Knowledgeable + Multidisciplinary.
Let’s ask ourselves a question : Does education, as an industry in general, attract innovative, highly perceptive, creative, eloquent candidates? OR does it tend to attract those who fail to get into college/universities and accept a place at a teacher training college? It seems like the only problem to our education systems is to sack 90% of our teachers and hire out of work advertising/marketing folk and journalists.