Does Teacher = Learning Jockey?

Early in his presentation, Sugata Mitra, quotes Arthur C. Clarke: “A teacher that can be replaced by a machine, should be.” He goes on to describe the results of his Hole in the Wall experiment wherein he placed computers with online access in various regions of India and observed children’s efforts to self-organize and teach themselves with the help of the computer. His thesis examines the ability of learners to assemble and organize themselves around a technology in order to learn. Thus, he recognizes the changing role of the teacher based on the affordances of emerging educational technologies. He examines one extreme of the changing role of the teacher – the removal of the human element and finds that for some learning tasks, the human element can be removed by a machine.

The New London Group provides greater historical perspective on the changing role of the teacher in education. They recognize the cultural, technological and economic shifts which have led to the demise of a homogenizing education, based on core, untenable principles and curriculum and aimed at eliminating differences. They argue that contemporary societies are multicultural and this necessitates the need for the development of a pedagogy of multiliteracies. Their pedagogy of multiliteracies diverges from the traditional notion of literacy pedagogy in that it embraces difference, empowers students and also recognizes their unique voice voice. The pedagogy of multiliteracies employs multomodality to engage learners critically in multimedia text, while they collaborate actively with peers in learning by design. Learning by design is a paradigm wherein the learners employ Available Designs and through a collaborative (learning by) design process they create redesigned artifacts. This is the “What” of the pedagogy of multiliteracy. The “How” are the methods used – Situated Practice, Overt Instruction, Critical Framing and Transformed Practice. Although the New London Group answer the “What” and the “How” questions, they leave the “Who” and the “Why” unanswered.

Kalantzis and Cope delve deeper into the “Who” of the pedagogy of multiliteracies. They identify the evolution of the teacher from a didactic, authoritarian figure in early Industrial society to a facilitator in developed Industrial societies and a designer or manager of learning in contemporary Knowledge society. They trace the market and cultural influences that have led to this evolution and recognize that in their new role, teachers must learn to ‘let go’ and allow learning to happen. However, they do not advocate the “replacement by a machine” approach. The human element is still important as a guide and leader that creates the environment to allow learners to conduct independent learning, critical evaluation, reflection, application in different contexts and communication among a wide range of formal and informal netwroks. The contemporary teacher introduces diverse knowledge processes and activities, they are comfortable with multi-modalities and multiple networks/paths of developments. They can be authoritative but are not authoritarian.

The contemporary teacher is a product of our multicultural societies where multimodal texts, social networks and the absence of a mandate for cultural homogenization from a suppressive state enable diversity and multiliteracies. Perhaps, its my twelve years of Catholic schooling, but I found the term ‘teacher’ anachronistic when used to define this evolved role. “Teacher”, for me, still carries connotations of an authoritarian, didactic disciplinarian. “Facilitator” sounds too dated, and both “Manager” and “Designer” carry more business than educational connotations. As I was reading, I kept picturing a person in the centre of a learning space, spinning diverse educational media towards individual and groups of learners based on their learning styles and ability. Almost like a DJ, juggling, mixing and jockeying music and media based on the energy of his/her audience. Could “Learning Jockey” be a good substitute for “Teacher”? 🙂

Lastly, the “Why”… The pedagogy of multiliteracies is a natural evolution based on the external forces of multiculturalism, diversity, civic pluralism and technological development. It also embraces Constructivist and Connectivist educational arguments, thereby being more developed in recognition of individual and group learning psychology. The teacher, as an agent of change can embrace and thereby help this evolution succeed.


Kalantzis, M. & Cope, B. 2010. The teacher as designer: Pedagogy in the new media age. E-learning and Digital media 7(3). 200-222.

New London Group. 1996. A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review. 66(1), 60-92.

Dr. Paul Kim, Stanford University, Designing a New Learning Environment

Dr. Sugata Mitra (“Hole in the Wall” experiment), Kids Can Teach Themselves

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