Thursday, January 2, 2014

Re-Shaping Online Education: The Evolving Role of Online Educators:Part I

Greetings and Happy New Year-
As we enter a new year, we need to recognize that the only constant in this world is change and the acceptance of this highlights perhaps what may be considered some alarming questions. For example, as change happens at an exponential rate, on many levels and in many disciplines, what can we use as a measuring stick or standard in judging what is "good and useful" change and what is change that we should guard against at all costs? How are the roles of online educators evolving in reaction to the changes take place? As confusing as this may seem, perhaps, we should look to history and the past to ask an important question. This question is a question that in societies whose mantra is individualism, is an absurd question. The ruling political elites have all but thrown this question into the political garbage can. The question is: "What change is to the benefit of the "common good" of all people that it will affect? The simple truth is that in societies where individualism is highly prized, "me" is more important than "us". This type of societal philosophy reverberates through all aspects of daily life. For example, have you ever wondered why vehicle hit and runs are increasing in our "civilized" societies? The rationale in such cases simply is that it is more important that I not get caught because I have had too much to drink, I am driving with a suspended licence or I don't have automobile insurance than it is important for me to to stay and care for the person I struck with my car.
Now you might say, wait a minute, what does any of this have to do with teaching online? This sounds like someone moralizing about something that has nothing to do with teaching. Well, in reality it does because an underlying assumption in considering change that is beneficial to the common good is that our vision for online education is a vision that utilizes change for the common good of all students regardless of socio-economic background, age, physical and mental functioning...etc. We can not and should not guarantee that all students will excel to the same level. This is part of the egalitarian myth and has been responsible for much of the political manipulation of education in many societies. The other assumption is that those formulating the vision are willing to be revolutionary and counter-cultural is guiding online education with a focus on the common good of those who are to be "life-long"learners. This means going against the flow of society.
Coming back to the role of the online teacher, it is worth while to point out that the educator has evolved from the socratic lecturer, the fountain of all knowledge to someone who sees his/her role as a mentor who draws upon many others in many disciplines to help deliver an education experience to students that is relevant, challenging , enriching and even confrontational. Just as a conductor of a symphony orchestra co-ordinates and directs the talents of a wide variety of people with one particular vision in mind, the evolution of the online educator should be to conducting their education efforts with the vision of a Magnus Opus in education. This requires that some teachers who are too comfortable in the "park position" should either get into gear and collaborate for the common good and advancement of online education or for the good of all students, get out of the way.
In the next segment, an important question from the digital natives of our societies, the students....

1 comment:

John Skelton said...

Hi Ken,

I am very much enjoying your blog. I'm in the process of reading through your earlier posts and I have to disagree with one point that I see here. If you read anything about the history of schools (i.e. Gatto) you will see that the need to serve the "common good" is precisely why we have the system we do. In reality, we need to start serving the individual. In so doing we serve everyone's best interests.