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.
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.