The changing role of teachers – in the light of the Corona pandemic

My presentation at the anual EEPG-conferenc focused on: Students’ resources as the key to better teaching materials


Being a teacher in a pivotal time, I have first-hand, experienced how my colleagues have worked together to create enjoyable learning experiences and good learning outcomes with the students – and often depending on technologies they did not master.

This experience has brought critical challenges to my attention.

But it is also an experience that has uncovered great opportunities to re-configure the learning context in which the students act.

In my concluding remarks, I will share my thoughts on – how a set design principles might give educational designers and publishers a more up-to-date approach to the development of materials for teaching.

My central argument is that a greater awareness of students’ resource ecologies – and the importance of understanding the teachers’ learning designs – will clarify a need to rethink the ways we design digital teaching materials.

My name is Morten Bülow. I have worked as a high school teacher for over 20 years. In the same period, I have written and edited teaching materials on innovation and social science.

The past 14 months I have investigated the possibilities for involving teachers in the development of the next generation of digital teaching materials.

The pandemic has provided a unique insight into how we as educators have collaborated and transformed our learning designs from a face-2-face mode of teaching. Now – sometimes we teach in regular classrooms, but with some students attending via video conference. We mix formal and informal formats – and digital and analog technologies. In my opinion we are now more pragmatic in relation to the materials and frameworks within which learning takes place. All in all, this has been a development that has made it more demanding – but in many ways also more interesting – to be both a teacher and a student.

From a teacher’s perspective – The most visible change might have been the shift towards a hybridi-zation of education and of our life’s. We share co-working spaces with colleges and family. We bring our classes into our homes and ourselves into our students’ homes.

We are “at home” and “in class,” at the same time—and the same counts for the student.

The context has transformed – and the resources that the students bring into the learning space have altered too.

I suggest a focus on the hybridity that will highlight both the challenges and opportunities in loosening up the boundaries between contexts of learning, working, playing and living.

The spaces where we teach and learn are changing. Technology is both enhancing and invading the learning experiences.

It is evident that hybrid learning spaces opens opportunities and pose challenges to designers of learning experiences. In my Keynote I’ll go deeper into the problems and the possibilities that I see in the combining of multiple modalities to achieve effective synergies in learning designs:

  • There is a growing interest in the promise of learning analytics, artificial intelligence and educational data mining. New design principles may include the recognition of the valuable intersection between data and educational design. But! Personally, I worry that the wash-back effect from technology too actual practice in the teaching, will be more destructive than value-creating.
  • Students and teachers are not offered the facilities that would make it possible for them to reconfigure or adjust the teaching materials to the students’ zone of proximal development. Differentiation and adaptive learning are in most cases obstructed. I my research I have found that many teachers wonder why they cannot hide or add elements to and from the digital textbooks. Design principles may allow the teachers a technology that could support us in recapturing the legitimacy and the credibility we have— a certain degree —lost in the process of hybridization.
  • You rarely find learning designs that explicitly teach for transfer. I have found that students’ actively redesign and co-configure their learning activities when they try to handle the demands they meet in educational settings. These strategies are often – what some researchers have named – mini-max strategies. Students focus more on completing and meeting requirements than on learning anything. Design principles may support this transfer from the formal teaching to other contexts. We could redesign exercises and examinations and make them more exploratory. More like real life. More like play and more useful. – It could be made possible if we used the opportunities offered by technology.

In conclusion: Technology cannot, in itself, improve learning. Not even BELMA-prize winning learning materials do the trick.

The context within which we use educational technology is crucial to its success. Evidence suggests that technology in education offers potential opportunities that will only be realized when technology design and use take into account the context in which the technology is used to support learning.