This is the headline in the Irish Independent on Wednesday, April 22nd, and it refers to an interview with software tycoon Chris Horn. The article raises a number of interesting ideas for teachers. Chris Horn believes that Irish teachers should use collaborative websites, such as Wikipedia, to work collectively to share knowledge by creating collaborative documents. This Web 2.0 thinking is certainly in vogue at the moment — the notion that teachers should produce and share content. Dr. Horn specifically mentions that podcasts as medium for teachers to create and share content. We in TeachNet agree strongly with Dr. Horn’s idea. However, we would suggest that teachers will require help and support to publish materials on the Web, whether it is on a Wiki or as a podcast. This help may involve some targeted professional development and they may also require help in terms of provision of Web space etc. But these challenges can easily be overcome, as these tools have enormous potential for teacher professional groups as they give them a platform to collaborate and publish.
The article also contains some controversial statements like “[teachers] are rapidly being superseded by machines” and that “Google has replaced the teacher as the prime source of information and knowledge” but the author is not criticising teachers or suggesting they are an endangered species. In fact he sees them playing a different role in this new world, particularly in equipping students with the skills to survive in a world where there is often information overload. He believes students will need to develop the skills to navigate through these vast amounts of information so that they can find relevant content and the teacher is key to teaching them these skills. People like, Paul Gilster, describe this skill as ‘digital literacy’ and it is now recognised as a key 21st century skill.
I think Dr. Horn is on the right track in relation to encouraging and supporting teachers to publish online, particularly with their colleagues. We in TeachNet are keen to support groups of teachers who would like to try this out – we can provide the space, the expertise and maybe even a small grant to teachers to create a collaborative Wiki or podcast. Countries like Holland are promoting the development of curriculum content by teachers and we should be trying similar approaches here. TeachNet is committed to working with teachers to publish their own content, particularly using Web 2.0 as we believe this is the future where teachers and students are publishing content online. To access the full article click here.