Blog 31

Why teachers are not a thing of the past in the digital classroom


By Dimitra Giannouplaki – York undergraduate student 2016 – international exchange

Apps, social media, e-platforms offer to the contemporary students opportunities that decades ago no one could even think of. But, do we still need teachers in the classroom, will we need them in a few years or, quite soon, an app or a robot will replace teachers’ presence in the classroom?

All the digital teaching tools are so inviting, but are they enough for having happy and curious students in the classroom? Are students happy and curious to learn more today? Our problem is not technology; on the contrary, it is our attitude in the classroom that needs to be revisited. When students can find all the information they need on the internet or in their books, teachers must acquire a new /different role to play. The empathetic teacher, who is a coach and facilitator, is what we need in our digital classrooms because we long for true and deep human contact.

Teachers should make small quick steps towards a more creative and empathetic teaching. Lifelong learning is a new reality for both students and teachers. Years ago, graduating from university was all a teacher needed and that would suffice to enable her to  stick to the same methods till the day she retired. However, things now have changed. We should not be afraid to upgrade our skills and learn how to change the ways we teach; technology is the language our students use and, by applying it to our teaching, we build bridges with them, we do come closer to them and they do feel the difference. Denying enriching our courses by using any kind of technology sends to our students the message that we are bored with our jobs, afraid to change and we keep distance from them.

Technology cannot replace teachers, as long as teachers can motivate students. Technology offers the information and shows how to solve a problem, but it cannot motivate, it cannot touch their heart. The true motivator in the classroom is the teacher. But what kind of motivation do students need today? Do they need theories or lectures? Do they want a preacher or a moralist? Probably none of them. Teaching by example can motivate our students the most. A teacher, excited with the subject she teaches, inspires her students; a teacher who makes connections between theory and the everyday life of students can be motivate; a teacher who is generous, supportive, smiling, creative and can empathize with her students, motivates them. If you recall your past years at school and university, you’ll realize that you used to perform the best when you liked your teacher.  We love the subject because we like the teacher;

Every Monday, tens of students enter the same classroom. They carry along with them the reality they face at home, personal problems and bright moments. They all have their own story and we have to remember that before we scold them or become overly demanding. Relationships are being built with understanding, generosity and effort. Technology cannot build relationships. Teachers who view teaching just as another profession may not stand teaching for long. What is more, they may be kicked away from the classroom not by technology but by their own students who instinctively recognize who cares for them and who does not. Technology is not a threat for teachers, but it is a way to make their lessons even more exciting. What we may be afraid of is our attitude to stick to our old methods and our stubbornness not to upgrade our skills; instead we prefer to keep our authoritative teaching style. We are humans, we need connections and we can do it by being authentic and empathetic with our students; if there is a secret to a happy classroom, it’s no other than “empathy”.

Dimitra Giannouplaki is a Greek student who studies Digital technologies and the role of empathy in the modern classroom. 

She is a Niarchos Scholarship receiver.
Special thanks to Dr. Popovic, Dr. Stamatopoulos and Dr. Frake-Mistak for their strong encouragement and support, and to Dr. Sengara..for her amazing course on Digital Teaching and Learning.

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