Will computers soon replace teachers ? This question can disturb and even anger, but one must nevertheless recognize that it would be wise to ask it. In an environment where high school students spend on average 4 hours a day on the Internet, we can no longer gloss over the fact that technology is part of the educational world, whether we like it or not ! The traditional, purely transmissive academic stance has become obsolete in my opinion, and it is important to rethink the stances of a teacher and millenials, meaning the generation that has grown up with computers.
It is still (too) frequent to discover teaching contexts of an ex-cathedra style with audiences full to bursting point because there is no other choice than to do it in order to succeed in one’s studies. I understand students who, rather than being uncomfortable, or not there at all in the context of a crowded lecture, prefer to look for an educational substitute on the Internet. It is undoubtably more comfortable and efficient to watch an interactive video at one’s own pace than to take notes in a full auditorium. If teaching is limited to the transmission of knowledge, I am convinced that computers will sooner or later replace teachers.
Yet teaching is not simply transmitting, it is creating opportunities for learning. The true question to pose as a teacher is : ‘I teach, but are my students learning ?’ The act of learning should benefit the student only and it is thus imperative to create conditions in which learning can take place. When I was studying, I have no memory of really having learned at the moment of taking notes. I believed that I understood everything, but things got complicated as soon as I got home when I realized that the subject was far more complex than I had imagined. The act of learning, in which I would have had the most need of educational support, took place alone or with a group of students struggling over the same subjects.
It is here that the flipped classroom intervenes, time spent with students is unlocked from a transmissive perspective which takes place prior to the class meeting with a first exposure to new material. The teacher is not only a transmitter anymore, but rather a guide, coach, an awakener and a companion in the learning experience. Technology becomes a channel to externalize the transmission of knowledge. Videos, annotated readings, wikis and any other technological activity facilitates the acquisition of the material in a learning environment which is familiar to the generation of digital learners.
I am deeply convinced that in a flipped classroom, not only will teachers not be replaced by computers, but their role will become even more important in order to optimize the learning experience of their students. Their stance passes from a transmitter to companion, from « not anymore a sage on the stage, but a guide on the side ».(King, 1993)
King, A. (1993). From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side. College Teaching, 41, 30-35.