Achieving Change through Collaboration and Cooperation

As an educator, I have always been aware that one feature of my role, was change. Not necessarily change on a global or national scale, but rather, introducing and implementing small steps of change in my daily practices .

Encouraging students to be success instead of doing poorly in their academic lives; changing how culture stereotypes may not always live up to their hype; change in the assumptions and expectations  that learners have in regard to their lives after the (relative) safety of classrooms. These are mere examples that every educator will recognise in their teaching practices. Sharing regular changes in perspective and attitudes are embedded in the role of educators.

In recent years my role as an agent of change has broadened both in scope and scale. It has become easier for me to train teachers in developing countries, for instance. It is easier to collaborate and cooperate across borders as well.

In my mind, it is also more urgent, more necessary to participate and engage in the changes happening within the eduscape. Not all is necessarily positive within the world/s of EdTech, for instance, but one needs to be aware of what is taking place in order to make the best informed decisions. When it comes to changing teaching practices, it has always been my belief that positive, constructive change happens from the grassroots upwards. Participants themselves must bring about the change they require, the change they wish to see implemented and spread in their educational institutions.

It is in this sense that I’d like to point out how at TAMK, teachers are actively engaging in such a process of grassroot discussion and action for change.

Successful change needs to begin from the bottom upwards. Successful change requires cooperation – whether across departments in an institution or across borders. In today’s world, multidisciplinary approaches are necessary for changing problems into solutions.  That is especially vital for supporting teachers as well.

One constantly comes across how education in Finland leads the world. There are many diverse reasons for that. However, putting into practice what one believes in, pulling together internal resources for change, is one approach that exists in Finland. One program that reaches out to the world is explained here by Mark Curcher. Digitmentorit is another example of how education and training in Finland differs and achieves the quality it is known for.

Change and educational leadership come from within.

Finding a way to accomplish transformational education lies in the will to achieve.

Winter apples do not need to be objects of desire, kept out of reach.

Change is not an elusive, imaginary process. Change is here, change is now.


Change is knowing that there are no limits when there is a will to change.

What changes are you engaging in now throughout 2016?




Further Suggestions:

Challenging our Pedagogy – Hybrid Pedagogy’s Editors Picks

Finding a Way – George Couros

Parallels of Online Learning and Higher Education

Increasingly my mind returns to the parallels of online education and transitions to higher education. Challenges of both blend into similarities and hurdles which students need to overcome. A broad generalisation – that I am aware of. Nevertheless, let’s consider some of the parallels:

1 – For those who initiate online learning, particularly in the case of distance education, more than learning about the subject matter, they need to learn how to learn online. This means being an autonomous learner, taking responsibility for time-management, being able to read instructions and follow them. (any echo here of higher education expectations?)

Students who have grown up more accustomed to using digital platforms for learning may perhaps be accustomed to the features I mention, but for students who are commencing an online course, this is not so obvious. For instance, often,  participants will post replies where ever they want to, either not following instructions or not being used to reading carefully and understanding instructions. This is certainly not because instructions were obtuse or complex – merely because the learner has not had sufficient online learning experience, as well as studying within an paradigm of educational expectations/demands. Asking the teacher to repeat instructions is common; in online education, the learner has to re-read him/herself. In other words,  the learner must be independent.

It is within this shift of behaviour  that I clearly observe parallels.

2 – The time spent at higher education often represents the best years of youth; expanding minds, new encounters, a bliss of options and parties. Discipline does not come easily. Managing one’s time to focus and to enjoy all the frills of higher education (e.g. extra curriculum activities, free conferences, foreign visitors/speakers and so forth) is not a skill which one is born with. It is a learning process. Both as an online student and online teacher, I have experienced the urgency to refine one’s time management in order to meet deadlines and be a full participant of the course.

Time however, is relative. Concepts of time, concepts of deadlines vary from culture to culture. The emphasis of meeting a deadline seems to be closely entwined with personal and social accountability. If a particular social environment does not place responsibility on citizens nor expects responsibility from its citizens, how will learners from this setting perform online according to other cultural expectations?

As an educator who works in foreign settings, these are challenges I have observed in different countries; I am an outsider, imposing foreign norms and educational expectations on my students. Most norms are international – for example, being on time for class – yet time is not fixed and tomorrow’s deadline may be perceived as next week’s assignment.

Discipline with time management is closely woven with cultural perceptions of time.

3 – Despite the many years we now live with digital technology, not all students have been taught digital literacies. Yes, they may have their mobiles and use Facebook as an extension of their physical body, but digital literacies are much more than mobile texting, playing games on an iPad and spending time in coffee-shop talk on Facebook. Digital literacies, the ability to present and understand information in the multitude of digital forms, is no appendix to learning. Digital literacies are as essential as the skill to read and do basic mathematics.

For both students entering higher education and online learners, these skills are a challenge to master. From uploading an image to embedding, to using a digital tool to present information (e.g. a popplet, using SlideShare and so on),  there is a wealth of key language to understand and then skills to accomplish. Lack of knowledge may be de-motivating for many. If motivation is to be taken as a personal driving force, not all learners are equipped with this engine to successfully study at higher education nor on online courses. Nevertheless, few options exist today as so many colleges and alternative institutions have decided to become universities. A university may hold more prestige, may receive more financial support from ministeries of education, yet does not do justice to every single student – many who would perform much better in a higher education college where their real skills and interests could be developed, equipping students to become more productive in their societies.

Results in both cases are again similar. Drop-out rates in online education and incomplete or poorly achieved degrees.

From features of

distance learning,

online learning,

blended learning,

classroom learning,

characteristics of learning are present. It is not the label which defines; learning processes share similarities. In the quest to promote knowledge, to exchange and create knowledge, the digital tools we have today are one’s compass to achievement. Whether one follows the advice for learning on a MOOC or in a classroom, it is not a question of labels, but rather, mapping one’s learning process.

Further reference:

Amy’s MOOCs – Professional Digi-velopment

Dreams and Quality in Higher Ed

Everyday I read different articles, opinions, and claims on how to improve education. Ideas  expose dreams for pre-primary to post-graduate levels and yet solutions remain ellusive. Dreams? Surely there needs to be more than intangible dreaming for education. From MOOCs  to iPedagogies , all cry out for one’s attention, proclaiming  the salvation of learning.

Let me proceed with caution then, for in the midst of paradigm upheavals, of technological changes and most importantly, financial crises which affect education, one needs to inhale calmly and focus on the immediate environment.

To begin reflecting on quality in higher education, one needs first to focus on a specific context. There are higher education institutions where there are barely any facilities, computer labs with old desktops are locked up, classrooms lack what many other places would expect as the bare essentials for teaching – a white board, a projector and wifi, among other expectations.  Political entities have the power to decide whether an institution will be open to students or not; educators heed these random orders for it is safer to keep the peace and obey. Yet students, though they dream of better conditions, are content and grateful for the existence of threadbare institutions. Not only are students content, they actually accomplish their goals and achieve academic success.

As in so many fields of life, quality is relative.

Dreams too. For though I am fortunate enough to have worked in institutions where there are sufficient desks and chairs for learners, where there are libraries and digital support, I have also worked in the UK, where at one university there was no desktop for the teacher, no projector and no wifi. The immediate solution was to practice a flipped classroom approach, keeping class time for open discussions and feedback. Once, I was even assigned another classroom which turned out to be a broom cupboard. While I considered on the practicalities of the situation, my post-graduation students immediately refused to even peek inside.

It is not, therefore, only in the “developing world” that there is lack of quality in the studying conditions at higher education.

Quality and dreams will have to include the physical aspects of an institution, for they are the first contact learners and educators have with an educational organisation. The facilities will obviously depend on the location’s economic power and political desires of education. Dreams of the location will include spaces for students to work together, spaces where both educators and students can display and share their outside activities such as painting and photography. Spaces of collaboration and spaces for creativity and sharing. Dreams will include a cafeteria and food outlets which serve more than popular junk food and at prices which students can afford.

Mak (2013) highlights how higher ed institutions are places where learners are to be well informed, where they can think critically, analyse social problems and hopefully propose solutions. These elements are part of another set of dreams – those intangible aims which institutions advertise, yet only the most self-motivated learners can aspire to.

If quality at higher ed institutions is going to be taken to heart, then one also needs to bear in mind current trends which lie outside the ivory towers of power:

“Openness — concepts like open content, open data, and open resources, along with notions of transparency and easy access to data and information — is becoming a value.

Massively open online courses are being widely explored as alternatives and supplements to traditional university courses.

The workforce demands skills from college graduates that are more often acquired from informal learning experiences than in universities.

There is an increasing interest in using new sources of data for personalizing the learning experience and for performance measurement.

The role of educators continues to change due to the vast resources that are accessible to students via the Internet.” (Lepi, 2013)

These and other elements are decisive in today’s institutions. Acknowledging that educators are able to be leaders in their field without necessarily possessing traditional  academic qualifications, but experience and know-how, accepting that online course add value to an institution and do not take away its value, supporting and investing in new technologies for educators, researchers and students – all these are qualities which are necessary for an institution to practice quality management.

Is there really a will?

Or do those dreams lie in the will of those who believe?


Lepi, K.,  2013, 6 Technologies that Will Change Higher Education

Mak, J., 2013, Reflection of competency-based education, training and Total Quality Management in Education

Learning Mobility

Cordelia – Nothing

King Lear – Nothing!

Cordelia – Nothing.

King Lear – Nothing will come of nothing; Speak again.

Silence. Stillness.

Disconnection. Nothingness.

Having recently experienced a tech meltdown ( CristinaSkyBox), issues regarding the relevance of being connected, of teaching digital citizenship/identity, of engaging learners and teachers with technology for education, it is no surprise that concerns about mobility have been most on my mind.

It is never sufficient to explain how mobility needs to be integrated into classrooms. Mobility of being able to connect without firewalls, mobility to use mobile phones – above all, the mobility to inspire minds. In many institutions world over, the rule of no mobile phones in the classroom is still strongly preached and enforced.

Question: what exactly are educators afraid of?

Are they indeed concerned for their learners or the fact that their classrooms are dull, boring, lifeless?

Or,  is it the threat that a younger generation,  who is more tech-savy, has the power to dismiss the teacher who does not wish to update him/herself both technologically and pedagogically? Were I student today at school (and please do note that I am in fact currently a student as well), I would be on my mobile device throughout boring lessons. Why would I even want to attend school if I was not learning how I wanted to, how I needed to and above all ,not  be respected as a 21st century learner?

Mobility to learn is not just related to M-learning. Mobility to learn is our reality today with OER, Open Universities, MOOCs, Web 2.0, mobile devices and so very much more.

Mobility is an attitude. A state of mind. A state of learning.

Question: what right do “teachers” have to censor learning?

What right do “educators” who are unwilling to keep up with current pedagogical approaches, with the needs of their learners, with the demands of real life outside the classroom, have to maintain silence? To establish educational censorship?
Bauer (2012)  explains how “Today’s students aren’t interested in “going online” to get things done. Booting up, opening the browser, logging on, navigating to the task — they’ll do it if absolutely necessary. Students live in a text and tweet world now and are more likely to consume information and access services if they’re mobile-friendly.
Tinto, suggests that in order to maintain student retention at higher education, that structures need to be put into place which meet their needs. In his study Taking Student Retention Seriously: Rethinking the First Year of College, Tinto raises several issues in regard to student success and retention and explains how:

Involvement is also an important condition for student learning. Even among students who persist, students who are more actively involved in learning, especially with others, learn more and show greater levels of intellectual development.

Tinto also stresses the need of not only shared knowledge but share knowing – and shared responsibility. This is put into practice through communities where students are required to collaborate with each other. Result?

” students spend more time-on-task, learn more, and persist more frequently than similar students in stand-alone and/or traditionally taught classrooms. Their involvement with others in learning within the classroom becomes the vehicle through which effort is enhanced, learning is enriched, and commitments to their peers and the institution are engendered. By being placed in a setting where students have to learn together in a collaborative fashion, everyone’s understanding and knowledge is enriched. As one student observed, “not only do you learn more, you learn better.” (Tinto, Taking Student Retention Seriously: Rethinking the First Year of College,)

It is through digital and mobile technology that these successes occur.

Bauer highlights how “According to market research firm IDC, by 2015 more users will access the Internet through mobile devices than through PCs. By not embracing mobile, institutions will not only miss an opportunity to communicate with their students, they will actually create an interaction barrier.”

Change comes slowly. Change does not happen in a vacuum. Change demands loss of fear and commitment. Bauer’s  (2012) results from a 2011 survey showed the following:

We were surprised to learn that students wanted more than just a handful of campus services on their mobile devices — they wantedeverything. The overwhelming majority wanted mobile access to view grades, check course schedules, and log in to the college’s learning management system, Blackboard. They also wanted access to essential services like the library database and course registration information, along with conveniences like dining menus and bus schedules.

The student survey also pointed out that a majority of the students felt that mobile apps were of high importance. It was clear that whatever we did with mobile, we needed to do it quickly. And in building our strategy, we needed to incorporate students in creating the vision – we couldn’t workshop something and pop it out on them. We needed their voices and ideas in our development efforts.”

Change. Change is embedded in life. Change should be embedded in education.

However, as Herrington & al (2009) note:

Despite the significant potential of mobile technologies to be

employed as powerful learning tools in higher education, their current

use appears to be predominantly within a didactic, teacher-centred

paradigm, rather than a more constructivist environment. It can be

argued that the current use of mobile devices in higher education

(essentially content delivery) is pedagogically conservative and

regressive. Their adoption is following a typical pattern where

educators revert to old pedagogies as they come to terms with the

capabilities of new technologies, referred to by Mioduser, Nachmias,

Oren and Lahav (1999) as ‘one step forward for the technology, two

steps back for the pedagogy’ (p. 758).

Barseghian (2012) recently pointed out:

The opportunity of using mobile devices and all of its utilities allows educators to reconsider: What do we want students to know, and how do we help them? And what additional benefit does using a mobile device bring to the equation? This gets to the heart of the mobile learning issue: beyond fact-finding and game-playing – even if it’s educational — how can mobile devices add relevance and value to how kids learn?

There’s not just one explanation. As mobile devices evolve and become ever more powerful and multi-functional, the answers will change. In the meantime, there are some things educators know for certain do make a big impact on learning.”


“Because mobile devices are the new piece here, people want to know does it make a difference,” Pasnik said. “When we know that learning happens because of relationships, and we want to keep that richness. So the question of the value of a single piece like the mobile phone becomes reductive. You falsely are having to focus in one element, when in fact, learning happens because multiple elements are interacting with one another.” (Barseghian, 2012)

With learning in mind, I turn to Herrington & al (2009) who call one’s attention to authentic learning:

“Authentic learning situates students in learning contexts where they

encounter activities that involve problems and investigations reflective

of those they are likely to face in their real world professional contexts

(Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989; Lave & Wenger, 1991). Herrington

and Oliver (2000) have identified nine characteristics of authentic


• authentic contexts that reflect the way the knowledge will be used

in real-life

• authentic activities that are complex, ill-defined problems and


• access to expert performances enabling modelling of processes

• multiple roles and perspectives providing alternative solution


• collaboration allowing for the social construction of knowledge

• opportunities for reflection involving metacognition

• opportunities for articulation to enable tacit knowledge to be

made explicit

• coaching and scaffolding by the teacher at critical times

• authentic assessment that reflect the way knowledge is asses in

real life.”

Mobility is real. Mobile learning is reality. So, again I ask, what right do those who are involved in education, dare dismiss mobility? Mobile phones, iPads/tablets, iPods are all useful learning tools. Learners connect with their devices – and through their day-to-day devices, become more open, more accepting of being in a classroom. Or must they only be in a classroom to do tasks and actually learn?

Hockly (2012) clearly explains how teaching/learning tasks may be carried out in the classroom or on “the go”. Even when an institution denies permission to use M-learning, there are so many creative, inventive ways for educators to guide learner on how to use their mobile devices. It is a question of taking advantage of the moment, of opening learning opportunities to students.

No. This lack is not because of tech. There are too many teachers, who by sticking to routine lesson plans, afraid of taking the untread path, fearful of losing “power”, do not take advantage of relevant learning moments. Which begs the question – isn’t that why students go to educational institutions? Aren’t they there to learn?

Many comments, such as the ones published here and here, are unacceptable. If one is involved in education, one has social, ethical and professional responsibilities. Educators need to keep up-dated. Educators need to connect with their learners, guide them, show them how they can use their devices to learn and not only send texts to each other.

In the words of Siemens (2012) in regard to higher education:

Educators are not driving the change bus. Leadership in traditional universities has been grossly negligent in preparing the academy for the economic and technological reality it now faces.”

Changes. Economic, technological realities. It is not only at tertiary education where these changes should be taking place, but at all levels of education.

Mobility comes in many forms. Mobility is above all an attitude, a belief and practice of life.


Barseghian, T,  (2012) Amidst a Mobile Revolution in Schools, Will Old Teaching Tactics Work?

Bauer, P. (2012) Mobile: It’s Time to Get Serious

Herrington, J., Herrington, A., Mantei, J., Olney, I., & Ferry, B. (2009). New technologies, new pedagogies: Using mobile technologies to develop new ways of teaching and learning. In J.Herrington, A. Herrington, J. Mantei, I. Olney, & B. Ferry (Eds.), New technologies, new pedagogies Mobile learning in higher education (pp. 1-14). Wollongong: University of Wollongong. Retrieved from

Hockly, N. (2012) in Mobile Tech, Nicky & Language Acquisition – IATEFL, Glasgow 2012

Siemens, G. (2012) The Future of Higher Education and Other Imponderables

Tinto, V.  Taking Student Retention Seriously: Rethinking the First Year of College

Further Reading:

10 Sites to use with Mobile Phones in Education

E-moderation Station

Mobile Devices Drive Creative Instruction

Top 50 Mobile Learning Resources

The Nature of Classroom Roles – An Inquiry

The discovery of meaning lies, as Wittgenstein so persuasively taught not in the lexicon but in use. In the search for meaning, then we are not so much concerned with matters of fact or with some objective representation of reality, but with the more elusive topics of the perception, cognition and expression of reality.

(Cohen 1984)

As I reflect on today’s changes in classrooms, I take a step back, peer into those spaces,  and establish my beliefs and perceptions in regard to classrooms and roles. For it is by expressing how I perceive classrooms that I many then inquire into the changes that digital technology has brought us.

To begin with, the classroom is a dynamic social encounter which is conditioned by different factors such as roles, furniture display, pace and flow of movements, evaluation and silences.

Teachers are individuals who represent a group culture and at the same time, represent the institution’s culture – both characteristics are present according to varying degrees. Learners also represent a group culture, as well as being a group culture.

In the classroom, it becomes easier to point out teacher roles in terms of what they are, giving them a name, a defining noun. Although their roles may shift several times in the same lesson from manager to monitor to counselor to entertainer, this shift may often be very subtle. Yet teacher roles are characterized by what they are, they have a name of role which holds certain characteristics.

On the other hand, learner roles appear more difficult to pin-point with a name. Their roles are more easily recognized in terms of their behaviour, of what they do in the classroom, it becomes the action which characterizes their role.

Hence I am led to put forward the hypotheses that a role may not always be a role per se, but a function:

In the classroom a teacher is something. The learner does something which does not reflect a role per se, but an activity. If nouns pre-define the proceeding verb, it is the teacher’s role which will pre-determine and ser in motion the learner’s function/ role.

Therefore, speaking of “Learner’s role” as one refers to “teacher’s role” is an illusion of democratic equality. The concepts of roles are highly relevant within a communicative approach. Since one may consider the communicative approach as evolving from the intellectually dissatisfied ‘60’s, a more democratic ideal of education had to be established and put into practice.

There was a shift from from teacher – centred to learner – centred approach in classrooms (pedagogic reasons for this are not under debate here – I am merely observing this shift of emphasis).

Below is a graph of how I perceive  the socio-educational of the changes which I have just referred to, in regard to English Language Teaching:

Speaking of teacher and learner roles becomes a metaphor for this concept of equality. Both share/contribute equality. Both share/contribute equally to the classroom culture as such, but each in turn will form their own culture – both in and out of the classroom.

Let us visualize this metaphor which is at once bifurcate and globalizing:

Let me consider one last hypothesis related to soles of teachers and learners. To teach signifies to give instruction. To learn signifies to gain knowledge. To give is and active verb and to gain a passive verb. These concepts of activity and passivity also determine roles in a very subtle way. The shift in concept. i.e. that learners do not only “gain” but also “give” (i.e. learners do not only “gain” but also active) in a lesson is explored and emphasized within the communicative approach. This shift accompanies the move which may be parallel to the cognitive theories – a shift which may be parallel to the implementation of communicative teaching / learning.

However, current shifts in education and society have disrupted these perceptions. As the world of knowing and knowledge becomes flatter, more open, so too, do roles.

Or do they?

A Journey of Stories and Roles

 Leave by Raluca Deca 

When plotting stories, one needs to find a point to begin, then, one must entwine the threads which will lead onto the following scenes and actions. Perhaps there will be characters. Perhaps they will have names. One thing is certain: it will not take place in a void.

In order to prepare my students for their digital story task, I too needed to plot and reflect on the journey. This post is an attempt to describe the steps which will lead to a multi-media story written and produced by my learners.

Opening the Door

In language classes, learners are accustomed to the traditional approach of teachers asking them questions and then moving on to the next task. Whether brainstorming in a group or a reading or listening activity, it is always the teacher who has the power to ask questions. My first step was to reverse this role.

The currant topic discussed in lessons has been on education. Having worked through the various types of learners and each of my students understanding better what their main learning style/preference was, it came to light that the majority of students had a preference for visual learning. Consequently, in the next lesson I divided the class in half. One half of the class had to prepare questions on the image they were about to see, while the other half of the class were to prepare answers about the image.

My choice of image was not random – my students are 19 years old, mostly single and many watch romantic movies. They also live in a mountainous region, where tales of genies  are shared and believed.

Magic is not remote. Magic and metaphors live round the bend of the mountain.

Some may think that giving answers is the key to power in the classroom, however it is the one who asks, the one who questions, who has the power. This power is also quite perverse and relative – both the teacher and students know who has the answer. By giving this power to the students, I as a teacher did not abdicate; I shifted the traditional power balance. Students had to study the image and formulate their own questions. The other students had to predict what kind of questions could be asked, what kind of responses they could give about the image. The only framework I gave them was that they had to observe the image and read the story in the image, thus giving students a broad scope for whatever story they read from it.

This first stage involved only a projected image and oral work. Students were highly engaged and with the slight element of competition (i.e. which group would have the better questions or answers?), listening attentively to each other. My role was different. I stood in the shadows, listening, observing, making no intervention until the end, when I congratulated them on their work – for while they were asking and answering, they would sometimes even correct themselves (e.g. a verb tense or SVA), something that they wouldn’t do so eagerly in other circumstances.

Knowledge, Culture and Roles

Stenhouse (1991) claims that the school is basically a distributor of knowledge rather than a manufacturer (1991:10). This raises two issues – firstly that the knowledge found in schools is moulded in the activities of maintaining that knowledge rather than generating new forms of knowledge. Secondly, as Stenhouse also points out, disciplines of knowledge “have a social existence” and:

are located in groups of scholars, typically in our society working in universities, extending their disciplines by research and teaching them to students.

(Stenhouse 1991:11)

 Knowledge – or what is accepted as useful knowledge by a certain community – is thus maintained in educational institutions. We may perceive by this that this maintenance of knowledge is a powerful form of social control, and in effect, a maintenance of reality.

What if that maintenance of knowledge is reversed? What if the classroom culture is altered?

It is my belief that knowledge and culture cannot be regarded as a fixed, immobile reality. It is dynamic in the sense that it is a phenomenon which is alive and changing. But although change occurs, that does not imply that a culture is altered: any culture will hold elements of changing factors which will in turn be perceived as recurring patterns to the members of the group, thus keeping the group together. There is a common understanding, whether in language classrooms or others. There may be reversals and moments with altering realities (e.g. who is asking the question) but members of that particular culture share an understanding that it is momentary.  And if not, if there indeed is a deeper change, what are the consequences?

In education, there is an inferred recognition of the classroom culture by both teachers and learners. This understanding is accomplished by the acknowledgement of roles: roles are the means of cultural recognition in a classroom. Yet roles are neither static nor permanent. Each member of the classroom will play out different roles throughout a lesson. The recurrent roles will become the pattern of cultural recognition. The issue which now follows is – what is in a role?

Sarbin tells us that:

A role is patterned sequence of learned action or deeds performed by a person in an interaction situation. The organizing of the individual action is a product of the perceptual and cognitive behaviour of person A upon observing person B.

(Sarbin, in Cicourel 1972:25)

Cortis (1977) claims that:

The role of teacher and pupil are accorded different statuses both by tradition and by the age and developmental differences between the two parties.

(Cortis 1977:19)

In contrast, Gremmo, Holec and Rilec perceive a role as ” more dynamic and consequently more fleeting than status. It operates over a narrower set of relations and is dependent on norms set and accepted by the participants themselves.” (Gremmo, Holec,Rilec 1985:37)

How then, are roles established in the classroom society? Breen states that the culture of the classroom “insists upon asymmetrical relationships”:

The rights and duties of the teacher and taught are different. More significantly both teacher and taught may be equally reluctant to upset the asymmetry of roles and identities to which these duties and rights are assigned. (Breen 1986:146)

Postman and Weingartner have discerned how when the teacher assumes new functions and exhibits different behaviours, so do his students. It is the nature of their transactions. (Postman & Weingartner 1975:47)

They also explain that:

Ecology has to do with the relationships of all the elements of an environment and how these relationships lead to balance and survival (…) In the learning environment there are at least four critical elements: the learner, the teacher, the ‘to-be-learned’ and the strategies for learning.

(Postman & Weingartner 1975:58)

Culture and the roles within culture are not static identities. They are alive, dynamic and as such, subject to alteration. In the classroom, we find a scenario where these elements are constantly altering – both throughout a lesson. Breen comments:

Learners give a teacher the right to adopt a role and identity of teacher. And a teacher has to earn particular rights and duties in the eyes of the learning group. (…) each new class-room group reinvents the rules of the game in ways which both reflect and form the classroom-culture assumption (…)

(Breen 1986:146-147)

Roles imply games and games imply power. Just like the playing pieces of the chess game, teachers and students too have pre-determined roles to fulfill. These roles will be shaped by an implicit or explicit power relationship. This power relationship between teachers and students is one in which power struggle, which will reflect in discourse practices. By giving the students the power of questioning, I intentionally reversed roles.

Esland (1981) remarks that “Pedagogy also contains a manipulative dimension in that it suggests strategies for minimizing the resistance between the teacher’s world view and that of the pupil.” (Esland 1981:84)

And so the scene was set for minimizing resistance. Minimizing conceptions of authority, roles and expectations. My intention is for my students to create a digital story. A learner centred task, in small groups, in different stages. My role is to provide a framework for them to achieve their task.

In a flatter world, an inter-connected world where learners may become the producers of their knowledge, classroom roles will be different. I may hold the knowledge to syntax and other features of language; I may also hold the knowledge of ICT tools for a fleeing moment until my students master them faster and even better than I do.

Perceptions of knowledge, culture and roles are undergoing shifts of perception. Shifts in understanding. Knowing is never static.


Breen,M.P. –1986, “The Social Context for Language Learning – a                                          Neglected Situation?”. In SSLA 7, pg.  135 -158

Circourel, A.V. – 1972, ‘Basic and Normative rules in the Negotiation  3.Status and Role”, in Recent Sociology no2, ed. Dreitzel H.P., Collier Macmillan

Cortis, G. – 1977, The Social Context of teaching, Open Books

Esland,  G. – 1981, “Teaching and Learning as the organization of knowledge’, in Knowledge and control, ed. Young M.F., Collier Macmillan

Gremmo, M-J.,H.Holec, P.Riley,   – 1985, Interactional Structure; the Role of Role”, in Discourse and Learning, ed. Riley, P., Longman

Postman, N. & C Weingartner – 1975,  Teaching as a Subversive Activity, Penguin Education.

Stenhouse, L.  – 1991, An Introduction to Curriculum Research and Development, Heineman

Further suggestions:

Digital Storytelling 

Digital Storytelling Collection

Global Digital Citizen – The Role of the Teacher