Mastering the Role of the Instructor: What Hat Fits Bests?

Teaching and learning in the digital age is presently under construction. Just as construction of major thoroughfares, bridges, and interstates can take years even decades to complete, so will designing the most efficient and effective process of travel and integration of information of technology as well as the roles of learners and instructors using the technology. As educators, our role is to adapt until this project is completed. At the same time we must continue to find ways our learners can reach course objectives. This may mean changing roles for many instructors—from curator as conceived by Siemens (2008), to concierge, network administrator, or master artist, as cited in Siemens in which he outlined the “models of educator and learner roles and interaction in a technologically enabled era” (p. 15).

Each of these has merit as the role of an instructor varies from classroom to classroom and subject to subject, with the more prominent role emerging as needed.  However, John Seely Brown’s (2006) role of educator as master artist as cited in Siemens where the student creates his work in an open environment, shares work with and is influenced by his peers for inspiration, seems to be less advantageous for students. In this environment the instructor is not perceived solely as the expert or master, rather the ebb and flow of classroom activities that the instructor recognizes and draws attention to, serve as guided instruction. The creative nature of the learning environment is the strength of the role as master artist. In the same vein, the creative nature of the environment lends itself to an unstructured atmosphere which I believe is required in all classrooms. While students must be left to their own create devices to acquire knowledge and make meaning, they must perceive the educator as the far-most expert for direction.

On the other hand Siemens’ (2008) role of educator as curator, Bonk’s (2007) role of educator as concierge, and Fisher’s metaphor for educator as network administrator as cited in Siemens (2008) best describe the role of an instructor in today’s classroom and workforce.  To begin, students must know what choices are at their disposal when seeking information so that they can explore them on their own and then make informed decisions. When an educator assumes the role of concierge, this notion of showing students what they may not know is available provides them with more doors to open for learning. Quick access to resources, as cited in Siemens (2008) is invaluable. Similarly creating an environment where we assist students in garnering the skills to construct learning networks as well as discern their effectiveness, provides students with lifelong benefits, skills they can tap into even as technology changes. Furthermore, taking on Fisher’s model of educator as network administrator is equally essential in the digital age. Because Siemens’ (2008) notion that educators must play the role of curator—a dual role of expert and guide—which “fosters and encourages learner exploration” (p. 17), it is the most beneficial to learners.  Akin to a curator, in this dual role the instructor is in charge of collecting information and resources of information in one place for students to explore, interpret, create, accept reject. The curator as described by Siemens (2008) remains an expert in the field, yet does not wield power. As such, this type of role as instructor gives students boundaries and structure while allowing them to strike out on their own to make meaning. In the digital age, classrooms and workplace are best served by striking a balance with this type of role.

Reference

Siemens, G. (2008, January 27). Learning and knowing in networks: Changing roles for educators and designers. Paper presented to ITFORUM. Retrieved from http://itforum.coe.uga.edu/Paper105/Siemens.pdf

Check out these links, both of which address how teachers manage their changing roles.

http://kidblog.org/home/

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/03/how-real-world-technology-use-has-inflitrated-change-classrooms/

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4 thoughts on “Mastering the Role of the Instructor: What Hat Fits Bests?

  1. Hi Linette,
    Great blog and very informative on the metaphors of the role of the instructor. Does Siemens (2008) explain why the curator is an expert, but does not have any “power”? Is so, will you explain it further? And, if not, why do you think the instructor is an expert without any power? Do you think the instructor should have some power to control the learning? Why or Why not?

    • Hi Sarah:
      As I understood it, Siemens’ (2008) notion is that in the role of the curator, the educator does not wield his or her power. Clearly he or she has it as they are the expert. However, Siemen (2008) argued that “while curators understand their field very well, they don’t adhere to traditional in-class teacher‐centric power structures” (p. 17). With this type of traditional structure, the educator is assumed to have all of the knowledge, and dispense it as oppose to creating an environment where knowledge is created, explored by the individual learner. In doing so, the educator really does relinquish some of the power or control; however, I don’t believe it lessens his or her position as one of authority or control of the learning environment. I see as it an opportunity for learners to observe how the instructor values other’s power and control over their own learning.

  2. Thank you for sharing Kidblog! This might help young learners become comfortable in a Blogging environment early. While I like the thought of being able to choose a role I don’t feel that I fit into anyone category. I want to free to define my own. What is your preferred “hat” or “role”?
    Warm Regards,
    Shelly

    • Hi Shelly:
      I’m not comfortable being pigeon holed into one role of educator either. As such, I believe I am a dual-role instructor as Siemen’s (2008) contended. I believe as educators we must be flexible enough, no matter how uncomfortable it may be, to change roles or hats as the need arises.

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