By Olive Coursolle, MFA; 51Talk Chief Academic Researcher
Education has long been abuzz over the place of technology in learning. As technology has become ubiquitous, however, the question is no longer whether it should be used in education, but how it can enhance a teacher’s skills.
Educators will definitely have heard about online English teaching by now, but may have never considered it seriously because of our preconceptions of it as not being worthy of our time, or being beyond our abilities. It may seem unworthy of any serious educator because of the informal learning context of an online English lesson. The learning environment online is one where the very technology that facilitates communication can also impede it, as anyone who has had Skype issues can tell you. On top of this, the online lesson is very short and therefore incompatible with lecturing, and demands a great deal of concentration and focus because of the requisite multitasking.
With careful reflection, however, it should become clear that despite the unfamiliar context and all the technical challenges that may come with it, the fundamental teaching skills needed in online English lessons are still the same as those needed in traditional ones: to communicate clearly and effectively in order to help a student. The steps may need to be more direct and concise because of time constraints, but the overall objective is still to get one’s student to successfully use what is learned to communicate effectively with another person.
It makes sense to think of teaching English online as the next level of teaching, then. If the classroom is a teacher’s stage, the online learning environment is but an extension of that stage, one that allows an educator to do so much more to help a student learn. This can initially take some more preparation than usual for a traditional lesson, but what professional teacher doesn’t prepare for a lesson, anyway?
Teaching English online provides an educator with a wide array of user-friendly tools that just need some getting used to. Definitions of words unfamiliar to the student can be searched for in a few seconds and given nearly instantaneously, for example. Once a teacher knows the best Websites to use for definitions, it’s only a matter of having a reliable dictionary Website open to be used during the lesson.
The chatbox or whiteboard replaces our blackboard and comes with display capabilities that are a teacher’s dream. We can easily share pictures or definitions with a couple of keystrokes and clicks. With enough practice, we can even do this while still talking to the student.
Teaching English online is the wave of the future. True educators will recognize and embrace this wholeheartedly because in the end, it’s all about the teaching and learning that happens, and not about the tools that are used. Being lifelong learners ourselves, let’s step up to the challenge of learning how to bring the heart and passion for English to the digital learning stage.
Passionate about education? Visit www.51talk.com/ph to take your teaching to the next level.
51Talk is the largest online English education provider in China. Operating internationally in multiple sites in China and overseas, 51Talk has millions of registered users and over 6,000 online English teachers