Quick Reflection: Changing Role(s) of a Teacher

Considering the emerging hybrid pedagogies, open education, and massive open online courses there is no question that relationships between teachers, students and the technologies they share are changing. On the most simplistic level, they are truly forcing a re-conception of the contemporary teacher. I am not necessarily convinced that it is necessarily a new one, but there is a definite re-envisioning happening. In a world that offers such abundance of content, teachers are no longer the purveyors of specialized knowledge. Of course they can remain that in some circumstances, but that role is no longer a given.

Generally, I believe teachers still know more than students, especially at the K-12 level, but that knowledge is no longer enough. Teachers must possess other intangible qualities to operate effectively in a world where knowledge is no longer the coin of the realm, if it ever really was.

Teachers now must be able to deliver more wisdom than content. Stephen Downes shared a rather daunting list of roles teachers play in his “The Role of the EducatorHuffington Post piece, where he shared no less than twenty-three roles (Learner, Collector, Curator, Alchemist, Programmer, Salesperson, Convener, Coordinator, Designer, Coach, Agitator, Facilitator, Tech Support, Moderator, Critic, Lecturer, Demonstrator, Mentor, Connector, Theorizer, Sharer, Evaluator, and Bureaucrat). That is quite an impressive list and one I consider often.

One step further and Alec Couros’s Networked Teacher diagram and concept highlight an array of capacities in just one of those previously mentioned roles. Certinly there is some overlap, but the diagram is a granular look at the role of Connector, to be sure.

I think it is safe to say that the expectation is that teachers should provide what is needed. Consequently, teachers must be more things to more people than maybe ever before. The complexity of the job has multiplied.

As result, the relationships between teachers, students, and technologies they share have grown more complex. The roles that were believed to be settled are all again subject to interrogation.

For me, an educator or teacher must be a master student or learner. One who walks the walk, always learning, always curious, always chasing mastery, and leads by example. Truth be told, that is the only way I know, at the moment, how to maintain any kind of anchor in these evolving relationships.


6 thoughts on “Quick Reflection: Changing Role(s) of a Teacher

  1. Pamela Hunnisett

    I completely agree with you! I love that you have captured that for us to be relevant to learners’ needs, we must shed our ego and be prepared to redefine our role – based on the needs of a class. My most interesting journey was teaching IB students – many of whom taught me more than I knew. That was such a blessing and a rewarding experience. I hope students can become more independent and lead the pedagogical changes. One way I do this is through student teachers who lead the way for me to be transformational. Cheers.

    1. Fred Haas - @akh003 Post author


      I am so glad that this post meant something to you. I have to give most of the credit to Stephen Downes for inspiring some of my thoughts. I like his work a lot. If you haven’t had a chance yet to read that Huffington Post piece, it is absolutely worth the read, as is most of his writing. In fact, I think it got a retweet out through the ETMOOC community earlier this week.

      I love your IB story. If we give students the power, authority, and agency, they can become remarkable teachers, if we are willing to look closely. They may not be content specialists, but they can offer plenty to those willing to notice. You are clearly someone willing to notice.

      By the way, I am getting my first student teacher Monday. I’m very excited. I just hope I don’t scare her off! 😉


  2. sspellmancann

    “For me, an educator or teacher must be a master student or learner. One who walks the walk, always learning, always curious, always chasing mastery, and leads by example.” YES, YES, YES, I so agree. Even though I am in the last years of being in a school. I have been an educator for 33 years, I plan on ALWAYS learning. Forever and ever. MOOC’s are a fantastic way to do that. Thanks for sharing your post.

    1. Fred Haas - @akh003 Post author


      Thanks for the enthusiastic endorsement. You know, I don’t believe that any of those qualities I have listed have anything to do with experience or even age for that matter (see this Diane Ravitch blogpost for a dubious take on experience). I think those qualities might just be part of an individual’s identity, perhaps even at the center of anyone who has the potential to be a great teacher. I am still having a think on that last sentence.

      By the way, I love that you are ETMOOCing with colleagues. I am jealous. I made a mild effort to recruit but couldn’t get any immediate takers.


  3. John Johnston

    Thanks for this, I’d missed Stephen Downes’ post.
    A daunting list indeed. Staying a learner and admitting that you are one is probably the only way to keep ones head above the fast moving current we are working in.
    You express the best we can be in these times in a way that helps in face of complexity.

    1. Fred Haas - @akh003 Post author


      Thanks for the kind words. I love the Downes’ piece. If you do not read him regularly, I think everyone should. These are definitely interesting times and the roles are in a seemingly constant state of flux.



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