21:58 GMT +313 December 2017
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    Brave New World

    The New Role of School Teachers

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    John Harrison
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    With the rise of the internet, teachers’ new role can be argued to be more like that of gatekeepers than being masters of knowledge in a particular field. Teachers could now be seen to be guides to knowledge that exists online. This signals a fundamental shift in the direction of secondary education.

    Ross Hunter, the interim headmaster of The English Science and IT School in Moscow talks about what is happening in schools today.

    Ross describes the “complete sea change” that has taken place in his lifetime. “When I started as a teacher, you paid the teacher to know stuff, textbooks were valuable and in short supply, and highly expensive. …Now of course, if you ask a child to go and find something, he or she doesn’t go to the library, but straight online, and they are presented with an infinite variety of options. The problem now is that there is so much information that the job of a teacher has to change from being the mediator and distributor of truth, to helping children learn the far tougher skills of separating out valuable information from, to coin a phrase, ‘fake news.’”

    The sheer amount of knowledge available and the speed at which knowledge is developing in each subject area, makes it quite difficult even for experts to keep up to date with the latest developments. Therefore, Ross argues, teachers have to recognise that at best they are the gatekeepers of knowledge.

    There are also significant changes taking place, Ross says, in the way that children communicate with each other. Now that more children inhabit their own virtual world more frequently, it is more difficult for the teacher to be able to be aware of the states of mind of all the children in his or her care. Bullying, for example, Ross says, may now occur online.

    In terms of how to work within the present highly complex situation, Ross says that the consensus that the more information that is available, the better, is no longer taken to be universally valid. “Most schools are taking the view that internet access is a privilege, not a right.” The important thing is to maintain an environment where children are able to have a choice and are encouraged to cultivate the ability to sort information.

    Many educationalists are now saying that if teachers fail, if we adults are unable to enable our children to distinguish between what is fake information and really important news, our societies will become more and more exposed to demagogues, liars and cheaters. The events of the past year alone have perhaps shown that this is true.

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    knowledge, teachers, schools, education, Internet
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