Dr Ipsita Barat, Head, Mass Communication & Videography Department, Assistant Professor at St. Xavier’s College (Autonomous), Kolkata shares her valuable insights on what it is like to be an educator in the digital era, the changing roles of a teacher and educator and what education is the future will probably look like.
The times have changed and so have ‘we.’ ‘We,’ are teachers, best defined as -- a human with good oratory skills, passing on “knowledge” to another set of humans (in numbers).
There is a strong binary between old teachers and new. The old ones (old is subjective) were role models in every walk of life. On a personal note, 12 years back when I started my teaching career, my biggest fear was whether I could be that model for so many youngsters staring at me with wide eyes in the classrooms. They believed in me and every word I said. That itself was a big responsibility. When a student asked something, and I fumbled, it use to be an embarrassment in those days. However, as I said, times change and so did ‘we.’
Google arrived and ‘we’ redefined our roles. Information was now available in the palm of their (students') hands. After that, imparting information in classrooms became redundant. I admit it was a big relief personally as despite being a teacher I have an extremely poor memory when it comes to remembering dates, numbers, and names. My students know that I will ask them to google it whenever such a question comes up. I realised that over the years, particularly with the internet and technology to their aid, our jobs became to impart knowledge and not information. Knowledge refers to understanding and awareness while information is data. Knowledge is the means by which one can process data. And that is how my role changed.
Soon after, another role got added to this profile – one of a facilitator. As a facilitator, our role is to initiate, direct and encourage students beyond the classroom. The classroom as a territory for teachers is redefined in our contemporary roles. While scrolling through social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, I see so many teachers posting internship listings, research opportunity job listings (ex-students) freelance work and so on. I have myself picked up the skill recently. This has become our role outside classrooms. Of course, being a media teacher, my role is in many ways different from chemistry or a history teacher. However, all of us; ‘we’ are constantly encouraging our students and most often helping them make a mark outside the periphery of the classroom.
Coming back to the binary between old and new teachers, albeit old being subjective -- am I a role model to my students, I doubt that. ‘We’ have stopped keeping appearances, I guess we have become more humane now and, in many ways, accessible. Today WhatsApp is instantaneous, social media is available to all, and humans, in general, are more receptive to accessibility. So ‘we’ have become more accessible or at least we are in the process. Fear is outdated, be it in parenting or teaching, and warmth is the new mantra. Of course, we must tread with caution, and ‘we’ are in the learning process in these changing times. Have we taken up the role of being a friend to students, I am not sure about that, but the boundaries have blurred, and roles are constantly shifting from one to another – one of being a nurturer, knowledge provider, facilitator, councillor and so on.