by Terry S. Atkinson
Children born this year will graduate from high schools in the year 2030. With this fact in mind, TVO has launched Learning 2030, a special on-the-road series canvassing citizens and experts about the future of education. Recently featured in this series is Douglas Thomas, co-author of A New Culture of Learning. Through his lens as a cultural historian, he argues that game-changing technologies including Google, Amazon, Wikipedia, smart phones, and YouTube have transformed the way that students think, learn, and make sense of the world. Thomas argues that university instructors must make radical shifts in their teaching to reach today’s students and challenge them to address tomorrow’s yet unknown problems and questions. While Thomas makes many points based on what he claims are the best historical tenets of education, several ideas are particularly intriguing for university instructors. These include:
- Shifting the teacher’s instructional role from dispenser of content to that of guide and mentor;
- Rethinking learning so that student passion, imagination, inquiry, collaboration, and a quest for greater understanding are foregrounded; and
- Valuing the notion of honing student intellect through challenging and substantive questioning, rather than providing right answers to teacher-generated questions. Such questioning may reveal no definitive answers and, therefore, has the potential to foster long-standing student interest and engagement.
Traditions in the academy often undermine such radical shifts in university teaching and learning. Perhaps no one understands that better than Roni Jo Draper
, who launched an innovative cross-campus action research project among engineering, English, history, mathematics, music, science, theatre, and visual arts colleagues at Brigham Young University
(BYU). In her quest to better understand her own role as a content-area literacy educator
, this collaboration has led her to question a fundamental tenet of content-area literacy. She no longer imagines that she can suggest a body of cross-content literacy strategies appropriate for all teachers and disciplines. Participation in action research with her BYU colleagues has led her to conclude that participation in the intellectual discourse of specific disciplines must be the focus of content-area literacy instruction and can only take place in collaboration with content-area specialists.
Draper and her Brigham Young University colleagues offer one innovative model for collaborative professional development among university faculty. In rethinking their own roles and practices as teacher educators, their efforts offer inspiration for other higher education faculty to envision and create new cultures of learning within their own classrooms, departments, colleges, and universities.
Terry S. Atkinson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Literacy Studies, English Education, and History Education at East Carolina University.
This article is part of a series from the International Reading Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).