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Editorial

By Madeleine Chambers on 6.2.2024

Teaching – A Profession of the Past?

The role of the teacher in the nineteenth and twentieth century was clear. Its main purpose was to educate children to read, write and do basic arithmetic by whatever method based on the use of pencil and paper. Fear played a large part in the transference of knowledge from the teacher, many of whom were only marginally more educated than those they were attempting to teach.

Over time the use of radio, television, videos and DVDs were added to the teacher’s repertoire as these new technological advances became part of everyday life, gradually supplanting the use of the book based sources of information.

Towards the end of the twentieth century the use of computers and particularly the internet has revolutionised students’ access to information and the traditional role of the teacher was challenged causing it to be in danger of becoming a ‘dinosaur’ relic left over from the nineteenth model which still pervades many schools, Town Hall thinking and the educational theories of political parties. The role of the teacher requires a revamp to ensure that it is ‘fit for purpose’ in this technological age.

The teacher’s role in the future has to be that of a facilitator creating the conditions for independent learning to take place through exploration, problem solving and lateral thinking engendering a genuine interest in what needs to be learned to fulfil each student’s thirst for knowledge in whatever subjects they show aptitude for. Teachers should no longer have to teach groups of students in which two-thirds of them have no interest whatsoever in the subject on offer merely to satisfy the whims of politicians looking to claim the popular vote. Education should not be shackled by SATs etc which stunt and restrict the expression of true knowledge and individual talent amongst students. The role of the teacher is limited and constrained by the requirements of examinations and the repressively boring courses on offer.

The role of the teacher in the internet age should be to develop an individual learning programme for every student which takes into account their needs and personal talents, strengths and learning style using computer technology to allow them to proceed to whatever goal or target they wish to set for themselves. The teacher must still inspire a love for the particular subject he or she is teaching with the emphasis on encouraging the student to follow his or her own particular interests by channelling the student’s innate desire to experiment, explore, question and evaluate knowledge presented in different formats.

Every child should have access to a laptop in every school in the country so that no teacher has to resort to using ‘chalk and talk’ as a method of purveying knowledge to technologically advanced students who require a much more sophisticated approach to learning.
At a National Digital Inclusion conference in 2008, Jim Knight, Labour Minister for Education and Welfare Reform, highlighted the importance of technology in the classroom: “technology is helping young people to specialise – to get a real feel for technical subjects by using technology they will encounter in the workplace. It is helping learning to become more personalised – allowing pupils to work at their own pace, discover things for themselves, and gain the confidence to work independently.” Learning is now interactive, instantaneous and most importantly, engaging.

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