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Is there a place in the future for college professors?

July 7, 2010

Newsweek has an interesting piece in this week’s issue about the proliferation of online courses. They go on to say that Pennsylvania’s university system is considering making its language courses available only online. If we only see education as the delivery of knowledge than teachers will soon become history are there are many more stimulating ways in today’s world to deliver information then sitting in a lecture hall with 150 other students (hungover or otherwise). I would argue that unless educators radically rethink how we deliver knowledge and put a stronger emphasis focusing on developing thinking skills over the acquisition of knowledge their teaching days are numbered. Knowledge is rapidly losing its luster once characterized in the phrase “knowledge is power”. Knowledge is so readily available in today’s open societies that it no longer provides the power it once did. What is necessary is critical thinking skills so learners can distinguish between “good” knowledge and “bad” knowledge. Educators at all levels are generally woefully unprepared to provide this.A minority of college professors embrace this concept but unfortunately way too many subscribe to the thinking of the Cornell Professor who characterized downloaded knowledge as, “pedagogical dystopia”. The professor doesn’t get it. It is no longer about the delivery of knowledge. Educators need to focus on how to get students to manipulate knowledge. We’ve long believed the future was in programs such as Antioch New England University’s Center for School Renewal’s Critical Skills Program. Leading EDGE has used the acronym SPEC to describe the future of education. It is based on constructivist learning theory and stands for a Student-Centered, Problem-based, Experiential, Collaborative learning environment. Is knowledge important in the future classrooom? Absolutely, but it is on equal footing with life’s critical skills such as critical thinking, creative thinking, decision making, problem solving, leadership among others.

This is a bit rough and needs work but I wanted to post this while it was fresh in my mind. What do you think?

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