The way ahead for teachers in the digital era is two-forked.
The disruption that took place two decades ago has influenced our today, and we are at the cusp of entering another era of change. This time it is digital. Technology has changed the way we think, plan and, most importantly, altered our medium of communication. Real-time video chats are increasingly getting popular. Our medium of entertainment and education has reached an intersection where knowledge meets animation. Education apps on mobile phones have earned popularity for mathematical concepts, which otherwise were tagged “boring and irrelevant” by most young students. There is a lot stated, debated, surveyed among media and academic circles, raising questions on the changing role of the teacher. It has been a progressive journey from the times when a teacher taught beneath the shade of a tree, to a class with a chalk and board, to the the multimedia shining bright beside a blackboard.
Teaching, which has been considered as one of the noble professions, is left to fend its way to keep teachers trained, while keeping the talent pool of students employable. Every alumnus thanks a teacher for guiding her/him on to the right path. But where is that perfect platform for a teacher to upgrade and evolve? While there are challenges, there are also opportunities for a teacher to change as businesses around the globe are fast-moving and technology-oriented. The changing scenarios in the boardrooms are bringing change in curriculum. The teacher, who once spoke for a scheduled time, is now open to interactive Q&A sessions during a lecture. And yes, a lecturer has a digital reference material to share with students. Finance students get a taste of real market by trading online from their B-school labs.
Students today are well-informed, with an almost infinite digital resources at hand. These students need not be taught the basics. They follow the subject they are passionate about, and most probably have worked as summer interns as well. These budding professionals need more mentorship, as to which resources to refer online. They need guidance on which path to choose amidst a list of options readily available on mobile. The internet has national and international forums and dedicated communities who follow a specific area of interest such as marketing, healthcare or finance.
The way ahead for teachers in the digital era is two-forked. The first path is to integrate changes inward as a teacher. It involves understanding the mindset and lifestyle of students. Teachers must note that not all students are voracious readers. There are bright heads who prefer learning through gaming or grassroots research work. While the current learning-by-rote system will take time to get upgraded, teachers can definitely make the content lively and interesting for the student audience.
Each teacher must reflect on the changes he/she needs to make in teaching. Every teacher must look at studying the various changes in classrooms across other countries. Besides knowledge, the teacher must acquire skills to handle basic digital formats such as power point presentations.
The second path is outward-centric that deals with the form of communication used in a classroom through technology. The common thread of digital knowledge can keep student-teacher on the same page. Content needs to be refreshed in the form on study material and curriculum. Case studies can be informative and visually appealing, with a short video inserted as a reference.
The technological disruption in education cannot replace the core role of a teacher as a person who inspires others to succeed with values and knowledge. Students look forward to give ear to such teachers who are able to reflect the changes across industries. At the same time, successful professionals from private and government organisations are becoming the new face of teachers as visiting faculty. Such professionals, among other things, help students accomplish application of theory at work.
There are challenges, too. The stakeholders in education, right from the government to potential employers, need to contribute their share as responsibility and not voluntarily. What will be the course of future education depends on the efforts we make today. Amidst the clamour of digitisation, a teacher will continue to enlighten future leaders.
The author is Group Director, LN Welingkar Institute of Management Development & Research, Mumbai and Bengaluru (WeSchool)