flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

In a recent article for The Atlantic, Alexandra Samuel suggests that when it comes to parents, there are three clear types: limiters, enablers and mentors. Limiters keep their children away from the internet meaning that they are kept out of the digital world. Enablers trust their kids online, but leave them to their own accord. Mentors on the other hand, walk hand in hand guiding producing. After reading the article, I was left wondering whether the same categories could be applied to teachers?

I know that technology is required in every classroom and many schools are full of devices, but it seems that one of the greatest variables to success is the teacher willing to embrace it. Dr. Jane Hunter has published a book about ‘high possibility classrooms’. What seems to come out of this investigation is that success is often based on the strength of the teacher. If we were to consider Samuel’s three types, many of the teachers who created high possibility classrooms could be described as mentors, teachers who stood side-by-side with students. Although on the one hand they make possible certain opportunities, they also supported students with these being wary of the challenges and consequences. An example of this is Lee Hewes’ work with Mindcraft. For without his support, the opportunities for students to be in a virtual world simply would not exist.

In contrast, the limiter grudgingly allows technology into the classroom, only to be secretly plotting its downfall the whole time. For some this is a fear that technology will leave them obsolete, while for others it is a belief that learning face-to-face should always take precedences.

On the flipside of this, there are those teachers that enable their students. They allow them to use technology, but having little idea as to what they are doing and how they are doing it. This leaves the students experimenting with little support or feedback.

Maybe this is not useful, maybe it is not the same or maybe it is just wrong? How do we support teachers with different mindsets? At different points on the innovation curve? Like Knud Illeries’ perspectives of learning, can we really change people’s ingrained beliefs about anything? And what does it mean to ‘teach’ technology, especially in a BYOD environment? Maybe we need to start with how we use it ourselves and go from there? Should every teacher be a mentor? Are there times when we simply need to enable possibilities or limit others?

I feel that I have more questions than answers, but maybe that is a part of the conversation that we need to have around any aspect of change. Like Sherry Turkle’s discussion about the place of technology, the more discussions we have the better. If you have anything to add, I would love to hear it. Feel free to comment below.

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What Sort of Teacher Are You? by Aaron Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

12 thoughts on “What Sort of Teacher Are You?

  1. Thanks Aaron – for articulating questions many of us have. After reading “From Master Teacher to Master Learner” by Will Richardson, I am convinced the key innovation and moving education forward is to embrace a learner’s-first mentality. Alan November has opened my mind to the concept of learning farms with students being the primary cultivators of knowledge and understanding. Instead of flipped, I envision “rotated” classrooms where students take on the role of teacher by sharing learning processes and products transparently. The teacher’s role becomes learning facilitator, learning leader, and learning model. You’ve commented about my recent post, “Unlocking The Learner’s Mindset” – it’s a philosophy statement I embrace fully. Because technology innovation is changing exponentially, educators and students need to crowd-source learning to stand any chance of keeping pace and maintaining some factor of relevance. Personal learning in schools and education needs to scale. This is a total departure from the educational experience we enjoyed when we were younger. It sounds like I am preaching revolution, but some fast-paced evolution would be a positive start. Thanks, as always, for making me think.

    • Thank you so much the comment Bob. I love the idea of rotated classroom. Has me thinking. I agree about the idea of facilitator and celebrator of learning. I think that Will Richardson would say that the change needs to happen with the teachers and seeing themselves as learners as you described in your recent post.

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