What is a teacher? I am one. I stand up at the front of the class giving my students as much knowledge as I can, hoping that they retain it. What is a facilitator? I think I am one of these as well, I encourage students along their own path of study in my blended classes, trying not to input too many of my own ideas into their learning – I want them to do it on their own. What is a moderator? In education moderation means something different from the role we are looking at here. Not sure about my role there, do I moderate their learning? A point for me to ponder on some more…
When does the act of teaching compromise the role of a facilitator of an online community? My immediate reaction to this question is that as a teacher I am used to being in control of a class, the content, how long a task will take, who will speak and for how long etc! I think that as a facilitator you have to “let go” as you can’t assume to have that form of “control” over an online community to such an extent – you can guide people back to the original task or goal (human nature means we tend to wander off on tangents very easily without too much trouble!) but you do have to relinquish that control and let the community get itself to the desired outcome by gentle guidance rather than by teaching to a prescribed outline, timeframe etc.
In Sylvia Currie’s blog it was mentioned that some members of the group were looking for or expecting more “organised” learning, but that Leigh has stepped back from that role, encouraging us instead as a group to reach the desired outcomes without so much input from him. It was noted that younger people learn so much easier through many mediums of technology that they don’t necessarily need a teacher anymore.
I can completely relate to this: in the past I used to teach subjects known as “Destinations” where we examined a particular country in depth relating to the tourism and travel product available. These days I have developed these classes using blended delivery where the students use technology, including the Web, Computer reservations systems, etc to find the information, instead of me standing up at the front of the class telling them about it. I am available if they need me and do short bursts of ‘teaching” (where we discuss a particular aspect before I let them loose again) but they have information to find and they seem much more content to get on with it – that is apart from one student who is 56 years old and really struggling with this method of learning. She can’t understand why I don’t “teach” them. It just goes to show that the difference from how Baby Boomers and Generation X were taught and learned from the current Gen Y students predominantly showing up on our campuses today.
So Leigh is fulfilling his job as a facilitator, stepping back and letting us guide our own learning, with encouraging comments to each of us, and perhaps a guiding question or two to help us on our way.
I think that as a facilitator you have to step back and let the students find their own path to learning instead of being led down a preset probably well worn track.
Do these skills overlap? Kay Lewis states in her blog that the skills of each do not need to be mutually exclusive, you can be a little bit of all of them, depending on the situation. How true that is. So in short yes the skills do overlap, but you have to know when to let go of that teaching role, to step back and let the student take over; after all we can’t force them to learn our way, they need to find their own path to learn that is best for them and get on with it, just as I am attempting to do in this course of study.