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.
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.