The problem: It is unrealistic to expect a teacher to:
1. Stay abreast of emerging technologies.
2. Spend an immense amount of time searching for appropriate technologies, writing content into these technologies, trouble shooting technical problems and maintaining these technologies.
3. Keep up with best practices for digital content dissemination.
And, my basis for saying so is that it hasn't worked for the last 15 years. And, without a change in the model, I don't think it will work in the future.
The Solution: Instructional Designers for K-12
I do see a solution to this problem. Do what higher ed does. Staff an Instructional Designer (ID) to develop digital content for instructors. At the college where I currently work, we have a system similar to a system used at a the college where I formally worked. In order to create reliable digital content, instructors in higher ed are not left alone to become experts at technologies. Instructors partner with Instructional Designers, many of whom have a degree in the field of Education, to create materials that complete the classroom experience.
Good digital content is a three legged stool. And, as you have guessed, without one of the legs, it doesn't stand.
Leg 1: SME aka at the teacher
The Subject Matter Expert (SME) is the first leg because without the SME, the other two legs wouldn't have material to bring to learners. The SME is the person who presents the material, decides what aspects of the subject matter needs to be provided to learners and divides that material into chunks that make sense.
The SME is the content expert who specializes in a particular specific subject matter. The SME is heavily relied upon during the development process. The other two legs of the stools may only have a superficial understanding of the content, so the SME needs to keep the other two legs (Instructional Designer and Developer) on track, when the Instructional Designer (ID) and Developer need to offer up suggestions for design and functionality. At no time do the IDs and Developers take content into their own hands. There is a constant reliance upon the SME to feed the material to the Instructional Designer as the Instructional Designer is not making any choices related to what content is needed, what the course objectives are or what content needs to be assessed. All of these decisions are made by the SME and provided to the ID.
Leg 2: Instructional Designer
The Instructional Designer is the design expert trained in learning theory, digital content and how to best disseminate knowledge. The role of the Instructional Designer is to work with the SME to understand how a SME needs to approach content with learners. This is an important leg of the stool. Instructional Designers take the goals of the SME and decide how to accomplish those goals digitally.
The ID keeps abreast of the technologies available to the institution and pushes those technologies to the limit in order to meet the goals of the SME and the needs of learners. The ID strives to provide the SME with digital content that reflects the personality of the teacher and relates to learners in the same tone that a SME relates to learners in person, while at the same time providing the SME technologies and techniques to reach learners on deeper levels that aren't even possible in traditional classrooms. So, essentially IDs are maintaining the spirt of the SME, the tradition of developing a connection between teacher and student, as well as developing content that piques the interest of and taps the innate learning desire of 21st century learners.
Leg 3: Developer
The Developers are those people that bring the subject matter and the designed content and transform it into that wonderful language called html5, et al. They are the technical leg of the stool that connects content to computer so learners can access the wonderful world of knowledge.
Developers stay abreast of the constantly developing ways that content interfaces with devices. They know how to use various computer languages to ensure that learners can access the content in the ways that the SMEs and the IDs deem crucial to the learning process. Developers need to code the content to accommodate content responsiveness, the LMS as well as the design of the ID. Developers are the ones who are bringing the content to the device so learners can access it easily, without technical problems and in ways that correlate to how people need to consume content.
Why is this important?
I think this is such an important issue in K-12 schools right now. Virtual schools are popping up and offering this service to students already. It may be difficult to compete with them as they don't have the overhead that brick and mortar schools do. I DO NOT think we should let virtual schools take the place of brick and mortar schools. I don't think it is the best learning solution for our learners for many reasons. And because of that, I think staffing Instructional Designers will actually be worth the price of an ID's salary.
And, for those who think good digital content renders teachers unnecessary, please look at the model again. The stool needs all three legs to stand. The digital content isn't meant to replace teachers, it is meant to give teachers 21st century materials to use to teach, guide, inspire, and support student curiosity. It is a tool that teachers will use, just like textbooks, white boards, smart boards, posters, activities, assignments, videos, etc. It is a 21st century tool that gives all types of 21st century learners easy access to the knowledge learners need.