In the information technology age, it can be hard to get a grip on the evolving roles of teachers. On one hand, it can seem as if the role of teachers has grown immensely; they are now expected to be tech-savvy, computer literate and at the cutting edge of education. On the other hand, it can seem as if technology makes the traditional role of the teacher largely obsolete. This, however, is not quite true; rather, teachers must keep their traditional devotion to students and hands-on interaction while teaching students how to navigate their 21st century world.
Emphasis on Technology
Teaching in the 21st century has to require an emphasis on understanding how to use information technologies. Teachers need to instruct students on computer usage, legitimate methods of Internet research, and how identify useful information. Additionally, this focus on technology can open up a world of new resources to support traditional teaching methods, such as the incorporation of software programs in the classroom.
Traditional Goals with New Resources
The traditional goals of education remain the same. Teachers want to help form their students into effective critical thinkers and life-long learners with a strong sense of their social responsibilities. While information technology can sometimes seem like a deterrent rather than an ally in reaching these goals, they can also be effectively employed to help facilitate rather than disrupt the learning process; for example, students can use social networking tools to construct opinion polls, or Internet search engines to conduct research.
Emphasis on Techniques
Teachers in the 21st century have access to a host of cutting edge research about how students learn. They should be knowledgeable and willing to apply such research to their classroom. They should understand different learning styles and be able to identify the learning styles of their students.
Students always need mentors, both inside and outside of the classroom. Arguably, this is true of today more than ever before, as school violence, drug abuse and other dangers have been becoming more and more common. Teachers need to take their role as both a resource for students and as a guide through the difficulties of life seriously, and should strive to foster healthy relationships with their students.
Emphasis on Action
Teachers in the 21st century confront the challenges opened up by globalization. Teachers should introduce students to their world, and moreover inculcate in them a sense of their own power to create change in the world. Teachers should not just transmit knowledge to students; they should instill in them a sense of their place in the larger world, and urge them to be active participants in it.