The explosion of ed tech, both hardware and software, is reshaping the K-12 educational landscape. Classrooms are morphing into makerspaces. Content is going digital. Cloud-based collaboration is reshaping teamwork. But what will be the future role of the teacher in this brave new world?
Looking Ahead to Future Role of Teachers
There is apprehension among some teachers about new technology because they are not getting the training they need to leverage the new tools in effective ways. Others are concerned that the burgeoning availability of digital interactive methods, content, and platforms may diminish the need for the teacher role as we know it.
While many believe the number of traditional teaching roles required will be fewer over the long term, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) confirm there will be continued demand for teachers through 2024, though not high growth. The BLS projects continued job growth of approximately 6 percent for K-12 teachers over this period.
The relationship between student and teacher has always been central in K-12 education, and that remains true. Children also benefit from interacting with fellow students and respected mentor teachers, and while those interactions are not limited to face-to-face experiences in a classroom, teachers play an important role in connecting those interactions to learning.
Developing New Resources and Learning Experiences
As I discussed at the beginning of the year, what is crystal clear is that the role of teachers will change as more ed tech is incorporated into the classroom. One evolution is the rise of blended learning. Blended learning is now offered by at least 70 of the largest U.S. K-12 districts, a remarkable change in a short time.
Another indicator is the wide use of educational videos, including Khan Academy videos, which have more than 500 million views on YouTube. YouTube’s own education channel has 1 million-plus subscribers, and Edmodo has more than 48 million members.
Adopting this trend, the American Federation of Teachers also created sharemylesson.com, which offers more than 300,000 free resources for K-12 educators.
Teacher Training and Retraining Will Be Key
Many teaching roles will evolve increasingly to curate and facilitate elements of technology and use it to break down obstacles in learning, rather than focus on primarily direct instruction and assessment. Therefore, teacher training and retraining will be key, and this approach should be a major focus for any K-12 district not already on board.
Miami-Dade County educational leaders have set a three-year plan to purchase nearly 40,000 devices and require its teachers to learn the new ed tech in stages. They’re not alone. Yet professional development around classroom technology is too often provided as “training” around skills, versus using a connected way that allows teachers to think of ed tech as a way to optimize their core mission.
Educational Technology Isn’t the Bad Guy
Ultimately, ed tech holds the potential to improve the K-12 educational experience for tomorrow’s students while also broadening the experience, toolkits, and skill sets of teachers. Today’s teachers and districts can choose from a wide array of crowd-sourced lesson plans, digital textbooks, professional-looking video tutorials and other materials. This unprecedented access to learning materials can only benefit students and bring down costs.
Joshua Starr, the high-profile superintendent of the Montgomery County schools in Rockville, Maryland, told NPR: “When I talk to the business community, they always talk about the fact that they want kids who have good academics, of course, but more importantly they want kids who can solve problems and think critically.” In a time when students can Google the answer to most questions, the larger goal in public education should be teaching critical thinking and creative problem solving.
Takeaway: K-12 education is undergoing a watershed change, fueled by edtech, wired schools and the rapid explosion of available lessons, plans, and resources. There is understandable apprehension among some teachers about whether they will be downsized or displaced by new interactive learning tools and methods. But the connectivity and resources available to teachers can be used to not only transition but enhance their roles. Viewing technology as a collaborator versus a competitor allows teachers to leverage the best of the tools available to enhance classroom teaching and learning.
1. “Where Will Teachers Be in the Classroom of the Future?” The Hechinger Report. April 21, 2014.
2. “Fewer Teachers, More Data In The Schools Of The Future” Forbes Education. December 18, 2014.
3. “The Economist Asks: What is the Future of Teaching?” The Economist. March 31, 2016.
4. “Thoughts on the Future of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education” Top Universities. June 17, 2014.
5. “Emerging Technologies to Enhance Teaching and Enable Active Learning” Educause Review. August 3, 2015.
6. “The Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher” The Atlantic. March 25, 2015.
7. “Digital Classrooms Plan Miami-Dade County Public Schools” Florida Department of Education. November 7, 2014.
8. “Blended Learning In Schools Infographic” e-Learning Infographics. January 20, 2014.
9. “Q&A: Exit Interview With A Nationally Known School Leader” NPR Ed. February 15, 2015.
10. “High School Teachers” United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. December 17, 2015.
11. “Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers” United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. December 17, 2015.