Is the teacher obsolete?

I came across a rather thought-provoking article online, where a pupil inter alia asserts that in 2016, she doesn’t need a teacher to tell her the things she can just as easily find on Wikipedia. In other words, the truth is out there, and she might just as well dip into the fountain of online knowledge on her own.

This articles raises certain interesting issues. First, the teacher is seen as obsolete when it comes to searching for factual information; it’s all available on Wikipedia. Second, Wikipedia is seen as a reliable source. Does the student have a point?

Digital competence includes skills in critical thinking (Program for digital kompetanse 2004-2008:7, cited in Otnes, 2009, p. 13). This encompasses being discerning when it comes to evaluating the reliability of online sources and the accuracy of the information provided by these. Can pupils develop such skills without the assistance of a competent teacher?

I maintain that the digitally competent teacher will become even more important in the classroom as the dynamic technological landscape continues to evolve, and as more and more information becomes available online. Our role as teachers is to assist pupils in developing appropriate learning strategies, and to be role models. Constantly changing communication technologies augment the need for critical thinking and the ability to compile, analyse and utilize information in an appropriate manner.

There is no room for gullibility in the modern-day digital world. We should never take information provided by e.g. Wikipedia at face value, without further verification. Come to think of it, we should never take anything at face value, the contents of school textbooks included.

The teacher is not obsolete. His job is inter alia to raise the pupils’ awareness about all the potential pitfalls “out there”. You may not find this on Wikipedia, but it is a fact.

Otnes, H. (2009). Å være digital. In H. Otnes (Ed.), Å være digital i alle fag (pp. 11-28). Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.