Posts Tagged ‘teaching’


A teacher (in Galactive) is the manager of knowledge creation   Prophets have always understood that foretelling needs to be made in a vague style.  Future prediction is a very difficult business, especially when you forecast something specific. However, if you predict for an undetermined period of time nobody can catch your mistake. To say that the teaching profession won’t last, doesn’t take courage. On the contrary, in saying that the teaching profession would never disappear (“Never say never”)  you take a chance. I will take this chance because I believe that this profession is an integral part of every human society.

Lately,  we hear more and more about the end of the teaching profession and this forecast is based mostly on these arguments:

  1. It isn’t the first extinct profession. It happens. It will happen again.
  2. World-wide diminution of the teacher’s role. Maybe this diminution is only the first step to extinction.
  3. New technology in education could bring alternatives.

The first. Some professions died while others have a long history and don’t give signs of future extinction. The second group consists from those that are there because of human nature (thieves for example) or those which satisfy the human necessary needs (fortune teller for example). Teachers have both components. People like to teach (at least some of them). Teachers help to transfer and process knowledge which satisfies the human society’s needs.

The second is simple. A bad attitude toward a profession says nothing about its longevity. Low opinion of politicians in society doesn’t say that this profession will have a problem of existence in the future.

The third one is the most difficult to argue. New technologies have a big share in education and certainly will have more in the future. Information flow already runs through the other pipes. A teacher isn’t the only and isn’t the best source of information.

Teaching is a dying profession in medieval because new printing technologies

Having access to information isn’t everything. Surfing the WEB without direction is a mostly unproductive occupation. We need direction in the informational chaos. Knowledge has a structure and this structure defines learning sequence. You can’t see the whole building when you are sanding at the entrance. A teacher is an experienced guide who gives you direction. Help in learning is difficult because different people create knowledge in different ways. People think differently therefore a teacher needs to adjust the learning way to a specific student. Another aspect is social interaction. People will need to communicate with each other personally. Children learn everywhere by trying, but sometimes they need correction, and the teacher’s directions can have value.

Computers are becoming more intelligent. Educational programs are becoming more attractive and effective. It is possible that some day computers will think like humans (for me, it means that the computer will become a man). This Robo-man could replace human teachers. Whether the teacher would be made of cells or of another material, the profession would remain.

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Analyzing why I disagreed with my opponents during conversations, I realized that ,seldom, it was different interests; more often it was different meanings of words. Imagine dialog between two people. One speaks and understands only English and another  German. What kind of decision would they make? For good communication  we need the same words and accuracy in using those words. We don’t need to look for the right definition of words, but for mutual definitions which would help us to communicate.

When we learn foreign  languages we try to understand the meaning of the words with the help of the dictionary:

Definition of KNOWLEDGE from Merriam-Webster Dictionary (without obsolete and archaic)

1 a (1) : the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association (2) :acquaintance with or understanding of a science, art, or technique (1) : the fact or condition of being aware of something (2): the range of one’s information or understanding <answered to the best of my knowledge>c : the circumstance or condition of apprehending truth or fact through reasoning : cognition d : the fact or condition of having information or of being learned <a person of unusual knowledge>

2 a : the sum of what is known : the body of truth, information, and principles acquired by human kind b archaic : a branch of learning

We also understand a word’s meaning with the help of authority (teacher) : Plato defines knowledge as “justified true belief.” And Bertrand Russell as “belief which is in agreement with the facts”.

Lastly, the best way to understand the meaning of a word is through experience, a child’s way to learn language. That is why a good dictionary applies this technique and puts an example of the word’s usage.

  Our experience  could change because reality changes. We need new words to describe new  experiences. Sometimes decisions come with widening or changing words meaning. Words change. After this change happens dictionaries will be corrected, authority will give us new definitions and our experience will be relevant. However during the process we experience some confusion for which only mutual relevant experience could help.


A fear of making a mistake is death for learning to think independently. In my opinion, teacher, facilitator must create atmosphere of freedom. It needs to be explained for students that making mistakes is the way we learn. Everybody makes mistakes. The teacher has to give an example and be able to admit when he doesn’t know something or makes mistake. Moreover, I sometimes make an intentional mistake to explain why my students do not need to accept everything as given.

After I watched  the movie I wrote above and tried to illustrate my thought. I do not know why my pictures said something different.

  A fear of making a mistake is death for learning to think independently.
  In my opinion, teachers and facilitators must create an atmosphere of freedom.
It needs to be explained to students that:

  1. making mistakes is the way we learn.
  2.  everybody makes mistakes.

 

 
  The teacher has to give an example and has to be able to admit when he doesn’t know something or makes a mistake.
I sometimes make an intentional mistake to explain why my students do not need to accept everything as given.  

People don’t copy information. They construct new information.

While I teach my students new things, they construct knowledge in different way. Maybe because the base of construction (their preliminary knowledge) is different.

One incident convinced  me in the correctness of this statement. One day after I finished teaching one year course, I was surprised by  my students, who presented me with a small book of my sayings. Believe me, I didn’t say this.

Not only misunderstandings lead to changing information. Connections that we make between new and old information also create new information. “Connection creates meaning”( Defining Connectivism, G.Siemens). We have reasons to make more connections for our learning.( See my post Web creation). But the question is what type of connection is more beneficial. Let me illustrate by the next pictures.

The left picture demonstrates chaos, the connection of everything to everything. The right picture brings more meaning because it organizes information. When we organize information, we create new information.


My PLE

As a child my first sources of information were observations and experiments. For instance, after being burned by flame, I learned to be aware of it, and  I learned the importance of balance when I did my first steps. Next, I learned to speak (language) and that helped me to learn from my family, neighbours and friends. Then, upon the discovery of books, another wonderful source of information opened before me, with the wealth of knowledge and the experience of people from different countries ,some of whom lived many years before me. Next, just in a few decades, the computers became approachable to everybody, and with the appearance of internet, the knowledge of millions of people became reachable. Nowadays, I can learn from the people and the world around me, from newspapers and books, from the internet and all the tools it provides the users, from Wikipedia to blogs and YouTube.

Learning from mistakes, mine and of the people around me, is an essential part of my learning. Experiments in physics helped me understand the theory, and using try and error method with different computer programs taught me almost all I know of computers. I enjoy experimenting with my teaching methods, because  I feel it constantly improves my work. As a result of observing the people around me, and the mistakes they make, I avoided many unpleasant experiences and situations.

The printed word opened before me a new way to learn. When I was a student, I gained the necessary knowledge from the textbooks to pass my school and university exams, and when I became a teacher I continued to use their aid for improving myself. I learned about human interaction from fiction, and about human nature from Plutarch and Tacitus. Newton’s writings helped me to understand the scientific method, and Scientific American and newspapers keep me updated with new discoveries and events occurring all around the world.

With the years the internet became responsible for more than half of the knowledge that I gain. What I once read in print, today I can see across my screen. Form educational websites for physics teachers I can learn from my colleagues all around the world. News websites give me fast access to information and allow me to review different and often contrary points of view which help me formulate my own opinion. Thru Skype I can interact and converse with people from different palaces and get information straight from the source.

In our modern world all the sources I mentioned are interconnected. Many books and journals are available on the internet, along with videotaped experiments conducted in universities worldwide. Nowadays, information is much easier and faster to access. In one click of a mouse we can gain knowledge that our ancestors had to undergo long journeys to get. The ease with which I get information leads to a continuously increasing information flow, and I hope that this tendency will keep on in the future.