The temporary teacher – education by subject matter experts

Education matters to me. Not least because I spent about 20 years at a school of some description. And learning new things is my favorite passtime, especially at work 😉

What will education look like in the future? What will that mean for teachers? And how will the pupils fare under the new educational practice?

Education by specialists: the temporary teacher

Temporary teacher: Education by Subject Matter Experts

Subject Matter Experts On The Loose – HikingArtist.com; Flickr image

There’s a lot of to-do about MOOCs (massive open online courses). The idea of having free online education for everyone is a compelling one. But what does it mean for the professionals who do the teaching? A few thoughts:

  • Experts will explain specialist subjects. Actually the term ‘expert’ will probably get spread rather thinly if the general teachers in schools focus so hard on the ‘handling kids’ part that their own understanding of anything beyond the basics suffers.
  • Experts will stay outside schools, most of the time. Pupils can do MOOCS and the specialist explaining a specific topic won’t have to worry about transport or how to get kids to listen – knowing how to present stuff to different audiences and consulting the ‘experts-on-kids’ will do.
  • Specialist teachers will by definition have only a couple of topics to cover before being replaced by the next specialist (from the students’ perspective). This reminds me of a recent post I wrote about subject matter experts – useful people, but only if you can get them to tell you about their core topics.

With so many subject matter experts around, what will that mean for all-round teachers?

All-round teachers with more than basic knowledge about a wide variety of topics will grow scarce. Maybe they were always hard to come by, the teachers with a heart for children/adolescents/young adults who knew a lot about a lot of topics and who were also really good at explaining ‘new’ concepts without getting bored out of their minds with explaining the same things over and over again (I can’t do it – I can just about handle one kid while keeping my sanity. I think).

  1. Since teachers will find it impossible to keep up with intelligent kids on a few specialized topics, they’ll need to let kids take the lead on those topics. Kids can really get into something. If they’re also active online, a teacher’s role is less that of teaching the topic than to advise them on how to do research. For tips on more advanced research they’ll need to get online again.
  2. School teachers (will) need to handle a variety of pupils, some of whom will be very self-directed from an early age thanks to swiping on their tablets from age one to watch their favorite videos.
  3. A useful video states that teachers should consider using the school’s curriculum as a means to an end. The ‘end’ being the pupils’ interests – students will read texts far above their official reading level if the topic interests them. MOOCs on information that students find dull and irrelevant won’t be an improvement on old-school education, at least not from the students’ point of view.
  4. School teachers will need even more than today to be a presenter, host, and mentor, making sure the connections between all the different bits of content become clear to the pupils. Not because kids can’t make connections – but because they frequently jump to conclusions that are more far-reaching than you would like about how their world works – and if they’re plain wrong, you need to know about it.
  5. Frequent connecting-the-dots sessions or projects are necessary to keep up with the stream of information.

… About half-way #4 I kept getting flashes of “It’s the Muppet Show! …” It’s just me. Teachers will need to do more than put on a green suit with flippers to tie their lessons together, I know that.

As to how kids will fare, well, so far they’ve managed most of what we adults have thrown at them. How will we cope with today’s tablet toddlers at school?

What do you think, expect, hope, or fear about future education?

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