Technology is changing the way we communicate and learn, turning traditional classrooms into virtual ones. What’s it like to be teaching from a distance? Today we’re sharing the story of Ella Wright, distance teacher from Australia and founder of ESL Teacher’s Notebook.
Being a distance-learning teacher, what do you see is the key to success when teaching online? What are the key things needed in such environment for teaching and learning?
1. Being comfortable in an online environment and it applies to both, the teacher and his/her student(s).
2. Employing the right tools
3. Pedagogy to support online learning. I believe, that no matter how fantastic a technology tool is, it is NOT essential if it is not supported by a systematic process of planning and creating an environment where active learning is fostered and supported. This process IS the key to achieving desired outcomes.
Do you see a difference in quality between online learning through video courses versus interactive lessons let’s say through Skype or Google Hangouts?
Video courses are usually designed to be self-paced and they require learners to interact with the media. I believe they can be successful if learners need to develop certain knowledge about a subject. Skype/Google Hangouts lessons, however, involve a different type of communication and are more suitable for developing both, knowledge and skills.
This type of communication is live, more engaging as it is social. Social engagement is also more motivating for students using Skype/Google hangouts because they receive feedback, ask questions and participate in discussions to generate deeper understanding of the subject. Language learning, particularly, depends on interaction with another human being.
What are the main challenges you as a teacher face every day? What are the most difficult aspects for teacher to educate and engage your students in a virtual environment? Any advantages you see in teaching from distance?
Challenges: managing an overwhelming amount of information; digital illiteracy among students and colleagues. Not being able to function in a digital society creates disparity.
Difficulty in my current environment: the expectation of being ‘Jack of all trades’ and not enough time to acquire new knowledge quickly enough.
Advantages of distance learning: more student-centered learning, more active engagement for students in their own learning, good for the environment and huge potential flexibility for everyone involved.
Which tools do you use in your classes to meet the needs both from teacher’s perspective as well as for students?
Online collaborative whiteboard, Youtube, Google images, Online dictionary.
Aside from distance, what challenges and opportunities do you see for online teaching VS teaching in a classroom? What are your thoughts on future of education and the challenges ahead?
I think online teaching has a brighter future than teaching in the classroom. Learners want flexibility and an individualized approach classrooms can’t provide. Our lifestyle and workplace are changing and the demands for developing necessary skills and knowledge within a short period of time are growing.
Face-to-face learning has to change if we want to have learners in the classroom, especially for government-funded programs. For training organisations to survive in the future, we have to review how we connect with our learners, engage them, differentiate them and address their needs.
The future of education is exciting indeed, no matter if it’s private or public. As for the future challenges, making learning relevant to students, I think, will remain an issue. As educators and administrators, we need to ask ourselves the following questions:
1. How can we build a culture that supports change?
2. How can we sustain professional growth in this ever changing learning landscape?
3. How can we best support our students of working age in achieving their learning goals and preparing them for challenging and constantly changing workplaces?
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