09 November 2010

The Perfect Teacher

In a recent post at elearnspace, George Siemens gives us his list of six "key skills for educators". These are areas in which teachers need to be competent and comfortable. I see them as characteristics that can (should, in an ideal world ?) be used to shape curriculum. Siemens has written much more extensively and formally on these issues elsewhere, but the blog is a neat little introduction to some of his ideas.

His list of six, in summary:
  • technical competence: Siemens' idea here is that teachers need to know the technology of the time and place, and to understand that tools are not neutral. Rather, they create adjacent possibles*. He says that "using any tool well requires a blend of technical competence and awareness of pedagogical opportunities".
  • experimentation: Curriculum can't be static. Educators need to experiment, "refining their learning approach to constantly changing contexts".
  • autonomy (learner, not teacher): Learners need to be constructing their own learning, and teachers need to give them room to do that.
  • creation: Giving learners room to create through intentional experimentation provides opportunities for the learning environment to evolve.
  • play: Siemens contrasts experimentation (see creation above) and play; play, he says, is random exploration without a goal or target - flexible, personal and engaging. Students need to play as part of the learning process.
  • developing capacity for complexity: The world is complex, and answers are more like a canvas painted in response to a problem landscape than lego-blocks that need to be clicked together. Students need to learn to tackle complexity.
Teachers who take these ideas into consideration won't be using a linear Tyler-style model of curriculum design. Their classroom will be messy and complex, and responsibility for learning will be shared between teacher and students. Wouldn't that be exciting?


*"Now I define The Adjacent Possible. Consider a flask of 1000 kinds of organic molecules, and call them the Actual. Now consider all one step reactions among the Actual. It might be that novel molecules are formed. Call these “the Adjacent Possible” given the Actual in the flask. This Adjacent Possible is perfectly definable given reaction conditions and a minimal lifetime of a chemical species." Stuart Kauffman

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