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There is no shortage of teachers

Juan Flaquer. Professor Emeritus of Tecnun-University of Navarra.

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Juan Flaquer PHOTO: Communication Service
07/10/19 14:32 Juan Flaquer

We reproduce below the opinion article by Professor Emeritus of Tecnun, Juan Flaquer, which has been published in several media on the occasion of World Teachers' Day.

"It is really difficult to predict what will happen in university classrooms in the next ten years. Constructively, where do we go from here in order to be on the crest of the wave of educational innovation, without being swept away by that wave, both teachers and students?

The traditional teaching of lectures - delivered on a blackboard with chalk and blackboard - is now seen as outdated. Bologna has promoted greater student ownership and encourages students - in addition to knowledge - to acquire new skills that will enable them to adapt to future professional changes.

In this context, new technologies are bursting onto the scene. It is rare for a teacher not to deploy audiovisual media in the classroom, in order to make better use of the lessons, or to implement computer applications that facilitate the understanding of the concepts being explained. Moreover, non-face-to-face classes are taking centre stage and the role of teachers is being increasingly questioned. What do teachers contribute to the classroom if knowledge is already available on the web? Will we soon see them replaced by robots equipped with artificial intelligence?

To answer these questions we would have to ask ourselves what we mean by university learning. Of course, technology has allowed - especially through the Internet - universal access to quality education. However, in my opinion, direct communication with the teacher is still crucial for the professional and personal development of students. The teacher transmits emotion, passion for what he or she teaches, personal example, motivation. All of this is picked up by the student, which leads them to grow in their interest in the subject and to improve their knowledge in order to keep up with what they are receiving. The degree of attention and learning of the student - in the presence of a real teacher - increases with the experience of what he/she communicates. A teacher should not only transmit knowledge. Students learn a lot from teachers who "believe" in their own subject, who enjoy it, who want their students to share their emotions and discoveries, in short, who see dedication to their task.

What emotions would a teacher feel if his students were robots in human form? Or, conversely, what would students feel if their lessons were taught by a robot? Dehumanisation would be the order of the day.

A promising line of teaching - not yet sufficiently experimented - starts from conceiving the class as a group of students motivated by the realisation of the same project. This is called project-based or challenge-based learning. The teacher plays the role of moderator in the classroom. Beforehand, he or she sets out the common objective, tells them where to find what they need, guides them on what they have to study and, with all this background, they can compare their proposals with the teacher. In the classroom, doubts are resolved, concepts are clarified, emphasis is placed on the most important ideas, and everyone - teachers and students - are aware of the steps that are being taken together. It is evident that the teacher - in the aforementioned educational model - takes on a greater involvement and requires from him or her an additional effort to the classic classroom lessons and a greater personal involvement.

If teaching only pursued knowledge, we would have lost the human-machine battle. However, if we understand teaching as an environment where teachers and students exchange knowledge and experiences, as well as learn together, it is not a lost battle.

There is no shortage of teachers. A teacher today is not only required to use the latest technological innovations, but also, and more importantly, his or her personal dedication to his or her students' learning.

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