Gatekeepers or Travel Guides

Prior to the development of written language, the gatekeepers of knowledge were the village elders who could tell stories about the history of a village or society.  Those elders would teach the “smartest” members of the village the old stories so that the history could live on.  Once societies began to develop a written record, this role began to phase out.  In more recent history, the gatekeepers of information were the librarians, teachers, and college professors.  They gave the knowledge to their students through lecture format and rote memorization.

Today the role of a teacher is changing.  Our students don’t need gatekeepers to provide them with the knowledge they need.  Our students won’t quit playing a video game because they get stuck, they watch a YouTube video to show them how to go further.  If they see a reference to someone and they want more information, they grab their phone and find out more from Wikipedia (for base level knowledge, it does a pretty good job!).  If they are arguing a trivia fact they can find the answer through a Google search – for some of our kids, the Google app is one of the most used.

When we provide more students the opportunities to share in the classroom, we are building bridges to the world instead of placing them in a silo.
Matt Miller –

Even though students have the ability to find the answer to their content questions, they still need our help.  They need us as mentors and guides who can help them discover their passions, and then investigate those passions using the skills that will be valued by our changing world.

How have you noticed your role changing in your classroom as it has become easier for students to find the answer to their content questions?  Share some thoughts in the comment section below.

4 thoughts on “Gatekeepers or Travel Guides

  1. From the first day I began my teaching career, I have really tried to be a facilitator in my classroom. I believe there are some fundamental things we need to instruct of the kids, but we also need to get out of the way some time to allow them the opportunity to grow. I think the biggest challenge to this approach is how do we develop the skills required for them to be successful, without running the classroom in the old model of teacher-directed instruction. For now, I see myself in a hybrid mode. I want my students to take the wheel, but having a brake pedal on the passenger side is necessary if we are to avoid a major accident that might prevent them from wanting to sit in the driver’s seat again.


  2. Students teach me new things every day: a new way to explain math, to fly a drone, about the stars and planets, how a gyroscope works, to program a robot, to make and edit a complicated video, how to fix and iPad……. Yesterday I even learned about hunting bows during a Genius Hour. “Teach” less, facilitate more, and challenge the students to find their passions.


  3. Wendy and I have tried a new approach with 6th grade this year where they will really get to take all of the knowledge, skills and concepts we work on and apply it to something that is meaningful to them. Students learn best when it is something that is personal to them and motivates them. Our 2 main goals are for students to find some aspect of music that they love and appreciate and that they are independent music readers who have the tools to successfully read. This year students can choose in which way they would like to use those skills so instead of absolutely having to play recorder they may choose piano, recorder, xylpophone, etc. Personal learning is powerful learning.


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