2. Defining your role
Do what you can, with what you have, where you
One of the results of Web projects is the changing role of the teacher and
student. In the traditional classroom, the teacher is often seen as the sole source of
But, the world is too diverse and complex for the teacher to seriously assume
that role. 150 years ago, a person could have a basic understanding of the sum total of
Western knowledge; science, philosophy, literature and technology. Today, we feel
fortunate if we can memorize all our passwords.
To effectively work on a Web project, the teacher needs to let go of the idea of
being an expert and rely on the knowledge and ideas that the students are more than
willing to share.
Once the teacher recognizes that it impossible to know all things at all times,
the question arises, "Well, what is my role?" How does the teacher fit into this
To refer back to the quote, "Do what you can, with
what you have, where you are":
- Do what you can- The goal is not to become a computer
expert. The goal is to focus your students on the learning. As a teacher you don't need to
understand every aspect of technology. You need only enough understanding to be
comfortable and to see the opportunities.
- with what you have- And, what you have is a lifetime
of experience you can share with your students.
- where you are- With technology and telecommunications
we are no longer confined to a physical "where". Educators, used to working in
isolation, can now collaborate with other teachers through e-mail to share concerns,
information, and best practices.
Now educators need to steer people
through, not toward, information.
Educator as Facilitator
Rather than being simple dispensers of knowledge, teachers
quickly discover their primary tasks during Web projects are to guide and mentor their
They help their students learn how to question and how to
develop hypotheses and strategies for evaluating information.
During the process of developing a Web project, the
students are responsible for creating most of the content, which forces the educator to
rethink their role.
Instead of providing answers, a skilled facilitator has the
ability to motivate, to ask the right questions, to keep the students moving and focused
on the learning.
The teacher's role easily and naturally changes with the use of the
medium. Teachers become side-by-side learners with the students, helping them to use the
technology in an environment which promotes cooperative learning, inquiry, investigation,
and the development of higher-order thinking skills.
The following includes a list of characteristics that have
proven beneficial when facilitating a Web project. You'll notice that there isn't one
mention of HTML, Java, or Network administration. Remember, this is more social science
than rocket science.
Models- The teacher can set the standard for each of the project teams. Some
students have difficulty assuming the role of a team member at first. One student may
dominate the discussion, while others are too shy to participate. Some may not be open to
new ideas, while others have too many ideas and have no idea where to start. To help
students with their roles as team members, the teacher
- is active in the group discussions, but not overpowering
- demonstrates a willingness to listen to new ideas
- observes team needs, offers support
- checks inappropriate team behavior such as judgmental
statements, or put-downs of ideas, and then reinforces productive behavior whenever
- reassures each member that they are an integral part of the
team, and that each is accountable for playing their part
- is always focused on the goal
Encourages Communication and the Flow of Ideas-
- gets the communication going by prompting the students
"These are some of your ideas, what kind of project would work best...?"
"Do you agree with...?"
- encourages involvement of all team members, "We've
heard from this part of the group, but this other group hasn't had a chance to speak and
they may have something to add."
- encourages critical thinking by challenging student's
assumptions, ask "what-if questions", "Think outside the box, what are some
other ways to approach this?" "Is there anything that you would want to
add?" "Are we asking the right questions?"
Clarifies- Sometimes students need help in organizing all the ideas that
they generate. To clarify, the teacher can
- ask for an update of the student's work, "I'm hearing
some great ideas, could someone summarize the main points?"
- ask questions to clarify comments and restate if members are
confused, "It sounds as if you're saying...Is that correct?"
Refocuses- In their enthusiasm, students may focus
more on the medium and lose sight of the original project goals. To get the students back
on task, the teacher may ask
- "I think we've lost our direction, can anyone tell me
what our goal is?"
- "How does what we're talking about now relate to our
Moves the team toward action- The best ideas mean nothing if they're
never acted upon. To motivate students to move forward, the teacher can help identify the
- "We've considered a lot of options, what would you
recommend we do first?" "What do you think is the best way to proceed?"
"How should we get started?"
Reflects- It's important that the teacher, throughout the project, helps
the student team members reflect on what they've learned.
- "Think back to when you started the project and then
think of where you are now. What are some of the things that have surprised you, what have
This process will become clearer as you begin to define and design your
projects. But, just like with any learning activity, you'll want to clearly define your learning objectives prior to beginning.