Teachers as Agents of Change

I shared this post recently, “These Are The Skills That Your Kids Will Need For The Future (Hint: It’s Not Coding),” and I want to start with a quote from the end of the article first.

Perhaps most of all, we need to be honest with ourselves and make peace with the fact that our kids’ educational experience will not–and should not–mirror our own.

I was recently asked, “What is a teacher?”, and although I could easily google a definition, I think the question we need to focus on is not, “What is a teacher?” but “What is the role of a teacher?” In a time where change is happening quicker than ever, and information is abundant and everywhere, the role should be different than what it was when I went to school, as the author of the piece notes.

I have written previously about the importance of being a change agent, and talked about these five characteristics:


I have been thinking about the idea that all teachers need to be “agents of change” as this is the norm in our world at an ever-increasing rate.  The article talks about this shift in learning:

Yet as the complexity theorist Sam Arbesman has pointed out, facts have a half life and, as the accumulation of knowledge accelerates, those half lives are shrinking. For example, when we learned computer programming in school, it was usually in BASIC, a now mostly defunct language. Today, Python is the most popular language, but will likely not be a decade from now.

Computers themselves will be very different as well, based less on the digital code of ones and zeros and more on quantum laws and the human brain. We will likely store less information on silicon and more in DNA. There’s no way to teach kids how these things will work because nobody, not even experts, is quite sure yet.

So kids today need to learn less about how things are today and more about the systems future technologies will be based on, such as quantum dynamics, genetics and the logic of code. One thing economists have consistently found is that it is routine jobs that are most likely to be automated. The best way to prepare for the future is to develop the ability to learn and adapt.

But one of the points of the article that resonated with me most was the focus on social-emotional skills:

Make no mistake. The high value work today is being done in teams and that will only increase as more jobs become automated. The jobs of the future will not depend as much on knowing facts or crunching numbers, but will involve humans collaborating with other humans to design work for machines. Collaboration will increasingly be a competitive advantage.

That’s why we need to pay attention not just to how our kids work and achieve academically, but how they play, resolve conflicts and make others feel supported and empowered. The truth is that value has shifted from cognitive skills to social skillsAs kids will increasingly be able to learn complex subjects through technology, the most important class may well be recess.

Here is my contention; as the world becomes more “digital”, the importance of being “human” is more important than ever.  This means both offline and online.  Things are a lot different from when I went to school and more complex, so the role of the teacher as an agent of change is crucial if we are to truly to serve the needs of our students, now and in the future.

Source: George Couros