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Information has never been so readily available, so it is no surprise that some have questioned the role of the educator. What need is there for a fount of all wisdom at the front of the class – the so-called “sage on the stage” model – if students have the entire corpus of knowledge at their fingertips.
|Photo: Professor Sugatra Mitra|
Renowned U.S. futurist Dr Thomas Frey has spoken of the “new frontier” of a teacher-less education system and predicted that within a decade there would be a fundamental shift away from teachers as imparters of knowledge to teachers as coaches.
It is also an idea that is gaining traction. Pupils at the nine schools run by the U.S. charter school operator Rocketship Education spend a quarter of their lesson time online, an approach that has provided inspiration for a proposed new academy run by Ark Schools, one of England’s largest school chains.
And on top of this are the numerous experiments with blended learning and MOOCs, not to mention the online courses offered by the likes of the Khan Academy.
But if the juggernaut towards teacher-less classrooms seemed relentless, it has been stopped in its tracks by a study from two Dutch academics. In their review of studies of online and self-directed learning, Paul Kirschner and Jeroen van Merrienboer conclude that the idea of learners as self-educators is largely an urban legend.
Studies have shown, they say, that while technology has democratized access to information, students do not necessarily have the skills to evaluate, select, process and organize it. Students may be searching the web daily, but “solving information problems is for most students a major if not insurmountable cognitive endeavour.”