#change11 teacher roles and MOOC

Who are my teachers in this MOOC?

  • Jenny Mackness does ask “who is the awesome teacher?’ for sharing thoughtful observations.
  • People who comment on my blog and ask questions or add better answers.  (I cannot name you all, I thank you all)
  • People who write blogs in #Change11 (and outside) and tell facts or do make me engage and give me gumption. Some of them are:
  • lucidTranslucent for showing different views.
  • Nancy White because she did not only ‘preach’ but cooperated.
  • Dave Cormier;  because of his intriguing ‘rhizomatic learning’  and his fine answer to my questions.
  • Stephen Downes for the OLDaily,, a source of information for looking sideways.
  • and many others. It is shared ‘teachership’  (compare ‘shared leadership’) and I tried to find some traits of this shared ‘teachership’ in this list of teachers.

Teacher roles:  from “Teaching in Social and Technological Networks” (blog of Georg Siemens) 1)

The following are roles teachers play in networked learning environments. And all of these roles are played by students too :

1. Amplifying, (drawing attention to signals (content elements) that are particularly important) (italics are mine) All participants in the MOOC facilitators, presenters and active students do a lot of Amplifying, in Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, participants draw attention to content and visual styles. Most of my teachers from the list do amplify. 
2. Curating, ( The curator arranges  elements  in such a manner that learners will “bump into) All participants do curate, maybe not consciously, add new elements, views opinions. Some comments made me ‘bump into’ and most presenters. Serendipitous Discovery.
3. Wayfinding and socially-driven sensemaking (aid the wayfinding process) Technology is a great help in wayfinding, receiving automated messages from blogs etc. In a MOOC the leadership aspect of teaching seems to be diminishing.
4. Aggregating (reveal the content and conversation structure) Participants do aggregate and connect information. They make sense and combine information and add new meaning. All of my teachers from the list are aggregating. 
5. Filtering (Filtering resources is an important educator role) Most filtering is done by the student, by choosing connections and messages. Other participants do influence this filtering.
6. Modelling (To teach is to model and to demonstrate) Participants define roles and rules and norms and demonstrate. All of my teachers demonstrate a model or a style of MOOC’ing, being human.
7. Persistent presence (“to make a home, a place to learn”) Participants  do their part to connect and to build “the Place of Change11”.  All of my teachers from the list do connect to build a network. 

In my view these seven roles are roles both of the Change11 Organizers, George, Stephen, and  Dave and  of the other participants: students and  the guest speakers. We could ask if the teacher in a MOOC is still a central node in the network or one of the nodes.

In the discussion around the Lurker in the MOOC these active ‘teacher’ roles of  participants seem to be an argument in favour of a more active role of participants.

1)  I did not find two articles with the same Teacher Roles.  Looks like there are a lot of different descriptions of teacher roles. cf. Changing Teacher Roles, Identities and Professionalism: An Annotated Bibliography Ian Hextall, Sharon Gewirtz, Alan Cribb and Pat Mahon.

image: Schoolmeester met kind, Co Westerik, 1961.


22 thoughts on “#change11 teacher roles and MOOC

  1. Hi Jaap – thank you:-) The list of roles is an interesting one – but apart from point 7 seems a little impersonal. That is the bit that I am thinking about a lot at the moment, i.e. the relationship between the teacher and the learner. Is there no longer room for this relationship? I think it’s interesting that you have named people who are important to you in your learning.

  2. Hi Jenny, a personal connection, be it friendly or unkind I think is very important. The persons I do remember as “teachers” did make a personal emotional connection. But one could learn without a teacher.
    Could we compare with arts? Knowing the author of a work of art could make you enjoy the work more, but if you do not know the author the work of art has a meaning of its own. Sharing the joy of a work of art is awesome but one could enjoy art in private.
    We are social beings, so connecting is necessary, in teaching and elsewhere.
    This personal connection of the teacher and the student is changing everywhere and this personal commitment is a great value.

  3. Hi Jacqui
    Thanks for this question. in my opinion teachers could be participants. When I was a group trainer social skills, i did not always participate. But when I did participate in an exercise it always was great fun.
    Maybe it is the amount of leadership of a teacher that changes. IN a MOOC some leadership is needed to make things run and to start things, and keep it running. Stephen, George and Dave do participate, one more than the other one.

  4. Jaap, this is an interesting interpretation of George’s initial posting (thanks, I had missed it). I think from a constructionist perspective this networked learning vantage is quite useful to consider, I am let scratching my head in how lofty these roles are, almost as if they live in the Platonic world of Ideas. Let me rephrase — they seem so ideal that they almost seem unreachable, and I am wondering if they are not like an unobtainable (and thus frustrating) goal for teaching and learning?

    Thanks for sharing this.


  5. Hi Jeffrey, thanks,
    I did only find more or less opinion-based articles about teacher roles. Some on questionnaires for teachers. The found teacher roles are always roles of an average teacher. So if you want a field of study, this is one. 😉

  6. I want to respond mostly to Jeffrey’s comments about the roles being too lofty. I don’t think they are. For instance, in this blog, Jaap is fulfilling all of those roles. He is amplifying, drawing attention to an important post that both Jeffrey and I had overlooked. He is curating by arranging for a link to this post where we can bump into it; wayfinding and sensemaking by posting patterns that he sees out where we can see them; aggregating these roles of rhizomatic/connectivist teachers; filtering by excluding some other roles that he could have included in this post; modeling these roles by performing in his blog post the very roles he is discussing; and finally, persisting by showing up for the MOOCs and keeping his blog current and replying to our comments.

    It seems to me that most of us in the MOOC, certainly those of us who are commenting on this post, are performing these roles. Yes, they are lofty, but they are not unattainable. That said, I think the job for us educators is to figure out how we can perform these roles better than we do now.

  7. Gumption. I like that. Connecting on networks, we give and get gumption ~ not a bad definition of connectivism either and not just for teaching. I’ve been mooc-awol (is that, by definition, even possible?) coordinating social media communication for a higher ed advocacy group 1 day combination conference + workshop. Every time someone starts on about structure and leadership, I find myself replying, “distributed networks” (the “unstructure”), thinking about a Group Knowledge Management Network (GKMN? an awkward acronym to say the least).

    I’m already thinking about who on this other network to share with, hoping they will get it and see the potential connections. Educators all, they should, but, suspicious of autonomous learning, not right off.

    First impression, I like the list and especially the spatial metaphors/concepts. They remind me of Lynch on reading / making sense of cities (and designing / developing ones you can find your way around)

  8. Thanks for this post. I see the occasional Tweet by participants who want to interview other participants and I’m interested in this peer-peer self-study within a structure where the teacher role is diminished, distributed, or transformed so greatly (depending on your viewpoint.) I wonder what other formal or informal structures happen in the MOOC that are participant-facilitated opportunities to discuss, explore, and seek feedback?

  9. Interesting interpretation of this, Keith; thanks for pointing some of these elements out in Jaap’s work here. Good example.

    I suppose I was thinking about this in a more formal teacher / facilitator role, rather than in a more informal manner (how I still see this MOOC work). I suppose this can be considered on various levels. Nice food for thought, and thanks for pushing this beyond the stricter interpretation I was taking to this from a teacher – learner perspective (also having in mind content x that needs to be taught, objectives, and the like).

    Perhaps these role elements are more for a networked facilitator than a teacher?


  10. In on the job apprenticeship training none of the “teachers” are versed in theories of learning. Though most apprentices are treated rather roughly, it isn’t because they are unequal–these are the people who are learning to do your job and are soon to be equal. I think this is a model of MOOC experience where the teacher role is, as Joe says, diminished, distributed among all workers on the site and transformed from telling to sharing.

    In a sense, a carpentry journeyman models the whole identity of what it is to be carpenter. And as imperfect as this system is, there’s nothing to be gained by maintaining a separation of roles between the teacher and the learner (except maybe slowing the process down). The idea is to practice carpentry together as we might practice learning together in MOOCs.

    To me, the teacher should be as excited as the learner in sharing the path of discovery. Some teachers, like our friend Japp seem to effortlessly model this excitement. I wonder if one of the characteristics of a good teacher is found in the spirit of the trader wandering in search of the unfamiliar (for the puzzle it presents) and the unexpected (to break the drudgery of certainty)?


  11. Your post put things together very nicely for me since I have been trying to collect my thoughts on this one too. I am still left asking myself about the feasibility of the corresponding learner roles in a learning context where the teacher fills the roles outlined by Jaap. How many of us would be able to fill the corresponding learner roles? Being in the middle of teaching a large online course (70 students rather than my usual 20; still far from a MOOC in terms of objectives, structure, and numbers), I am also left asking questions about the teacher-student connection in MOOCs. What happens when the pat on the head, f2f or virtual, disappears? In this larger 70-person course, I am sad to note that I no longer recognize the heads…

  12. Occurred to me that a quality of apprenticeship interaction that George mentioned in the link about and I mentioned too is the actual physical presence of the learner. When I’m showing I’m also telling AND responding in “real time” to what the apprentice is doing and (hopefully) explaining as they are doing.

    How do we simulate this exchange? Or should I say, “duplicate this with a simulation”?

    Hate to say this but the longer I work in building online courses the more obvious it becomes that we are madly throwing theories of learning around to justify being too cheap to provide meaningful human to human instruction. Leah touches on this in her blog . Do we give up the quality of the signal to serve a larger quantity? Giving more people less sounds like a bad trade-off.


  13. Should add integrity to the list of teacher roles. It just seems unavoidable that honesty is a building block of collaborative learning. Also, humans, being such accomplished liars, are the only ones we can trust to detect suspicious or misleading content. <>


  14. Adding some remarks. on this #change11 comments

    Of Course the teacher has to be a human being, relating to the learner in some way. Giving care and attention, being trustworthy, and all kind of human characteristics we prefer in our teachers and fellow humans are essential.
    It is not sure if the teacher is only one person. Some teachers do provide only a part of what is necessary for a full blown Ideal Teacher, and yet they could teach very well and with good results. The Ideal Teacher should be viewed upon as a rhizomatic field of features.

  15. <> Great comment! Hadn’t considered “teacher” as more than an individual. We live in a veritable soup of potential teachers from the mud puddle at the end of the street to the lessons in school. There do seem to be a few teachers who tell the big lie about learning being limited to the lessons they present–maybe they misinterpret their role? Or don’t want to share “their students” with others as if the students were the teachers’ own private project?

    Connecting with others is so variable and inprecise it’s a wonder in itself that we can learn with or through others.


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