Right translator for the context

We don't need any help watching movies, taking phone calls, reading text messages or surfing the web. So how could we need instructors (teachers, tutors, mentors, etc.) when we're learning from open source content? At first glance, we don't. It's no different from all those things we can do on our own.

However, if we take a deeper look at this issue, all those situations where we need no help are free of our context. It doesn't matter where we're at, what we're doing, who we're with or what we aiming to accomplish next. However, when we're engaged in authentic learning, our individual context matters a lot. Our situation may generate the need to know something new. It may provide a place to try out what we just learned. It may give us feedback on what we thought we understood which furthers our inquiry, practice efforts or formulation of our ongoing questions.

When context matters, we could use some help. Not from just anyone, but from the right translator for the content and our situation. We need someone to get in-between us in our context and the new content, conduct or connections. That someone needs to get where we're at. Ideally, he or she will get high scores from us on the dashboard I proposed for each college student to use.

The translator needs to get our situation in addition to having a good read on us in particular. That will improve our chances of getting useful information, practice applying it and realizing favorable results from our learning. We will leave behind all that useless information, those meaningless grades and those easily forgotten exercises that high ed dishes out at premium prices.

The right translator needs to know more than we already do, but not too much. That person ought to be able to:

  1. place what we're learning into other contexts where it gets used to define problems, solve them or make other kinds of changes
  2. use metaphors to reframe what we're struggling to understand so it becomes easier to grasp, relate to or keep in mind
  3. give us scaffolding to rely on while we're gradually committing any new procedures to memory
  4. show us a way out of our confusion once we've got a partial grasp of the concepts, skills or models

Higher ed will get reinvented significantly when each student can line up translators for what s/he wants to learn next. It will become a buyer's market where the customer calls the shots. Those who can effectively help students learn will realize they are in a service business where the value is seen through the eyes of the customer. Experts in content will not compare to those translators who effectively address where each learner is at in his/her mind and circumstances.

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