Online teaching 13 of 15: constraints and affordances

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Here is another interesting research article you should definitely read, even though it’s not related to language learning. It’s written in very accessible language, by the way, and reads like a story – a rare treat. The author (Dilani S. P. Gedera) from a university in New Zealand explored how meetings via Adobe Connect had affected the learning process of a remote group of students. It seems that lack of familiarity with the technology and connection issues were the biggest constraints, yet the affordances the virtual classroom offered were very useful for the learners: they had a chance to engage with each other and with the material that they wouldn’t have had in the asynchronous mode.

Perhaps this is the key outcome for me so far – do not compare online and face-to-face learning, compare online learning with no learning at all.

 

Online teaching 12 of 15: what students need to know

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I’ve started digging through Google Scholar results, so here is the best article I have found so far: Exploring the Virtual Classroom: What Students Need to Know (and Teachers Should Consider). Definitely recommended for finding out what exactly learners need to benefit from the virtual classroom. According to the researcher, Garry Falloon, the impact of student ‘knowledge’ on the quality of their learning experience is considerable. The learners should have technical knowledge (how to use the conferencing software), procedural knowledge (what conventions of the classroom should be observed) and operational knowledge (how to use the available communication tools). Without it, it’s harder for them to transfer their face-to-face experience to the online environment. Definitely something to consider!

Online teaching 11 of 15: research to the rescue

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Now, this article is not exactly scientific, but the author at least refers to educational research and suggests how it can be taken into account to make online teaching and learning more effective. There are references to cooperative and project-based learning, differentiated instruction and self-paced learning, as well as practical suggestions on how to increase learner interaction and engagement. A good transition to more serious reading!

Online teaching 10 of 15: arguments against

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My journey through articles on online teaching would be incomplete without more critical views on the subject. So, here is a blog post by Amanda Johnson which lays out several arguments about how online interaction will never replace face-to-face. For example, the author states that even though the teacher and the students are ‘real’, the atmosphere isn’t. There is less spontaneity in student-teacher interaction, students can only speak one at a time, there’s lack of emotion and connection – and teachers cannot get the full training and experience that they need to do their work.

Well, what do you think: yea or nay?

Online teaching 8 of 15: student interaction

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Here’s a very inspiring article by Bindi Clements about ways to increase student interaction in the virtual classroom. It is possible to achieve quite a high level of engagement, if you know how and plan well: another myth dispelled.

So, how do you avoid ‘death by PowerPoint’? Set polls, use the chat box, use the record function, tap into your learners’ experience and, above all, plan student interaction patterns, just like you would for a face-to-face lesson, or probably more. There’s more useful advice and a link to the author’s IATEFL 2018 presentation slides (wish I had seen that!). Very, very good stuff.

Online teaching 7 of 15: corporate training

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This article is mostly about corporate training and how it can be transferred from face-to-face sessions to the virtual environment, both synchronous and asynchronous, but it has excellent advice for language teachers as well: which activities lend themselves well to the new medium, and which should be left out, how you can use features of the software for more interactivity, when it’s time to go into presentation mode and how you make sure that your audience is not bored to death. My favourite tip for getting quick feedback from the listeners: change your status from the green tick to the red cross if you haven’t had experience with a concept. Sooooo simple, and yet so effective!

Online teaching 6 of 15: a list of myths

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If you need more ideas to convince someone (maybe even yourself?) that learning and teaching in a virtual classroom can be quite effective, this little listicle may be just what you need. The author dispels five myths about online education: that there is less social interaction, that you can’t see students’ reactions, that you can’t control the students, that technology is more important than your teaching skills, and that students need a lot of extra training in the use of technology. If you have also wondered about these things, just check the article at the link!

Online teaching 5 of 15: lesson planning and resources

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Now this is a link not to be missed: the owner of the website collected advice from 19 online teachers of English about lesson planning and their favourite resources. What has come out of it is a real encyclopedia of online teaching with excellent tips that are not at all self-evident, and much less self-plugging from the participants than you would expect!

A few takeaways for me: experienced online teachers and materials creators think that text doesn’t translate to online well, so we should use more visual imagery. It’s generally harder to keep the students’ attention, so the activities should be shorter and more varied. Some teachers prefer to get input from the students about their needs and interests, but I suppose teaching groups makes it more difficult to do on the fly. Also: there’s a lot of empty space on the students’ screen during a virtual lesson (not when they are on their mobiles, of course), and it should be used well.

Ok, I need to stop retelling the article and just send you over there 🙂

Online teaching 4 of 15: do you need a book?

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Here’s an interesting interview I’ve found with a school owner and online teacher Nina who thinks that teaching online changes students’ behaviour: they start looking for more relevant materials online and become more autonomous. She prefers not to use coursebooks because their structure is too rigid for this type of process – well, fair enough, as long as the quality of the other materials is suitable! And the best part of her interview is probably these lines at the end: “Instead of being worried or frustrated by the new, why not be excited by all the tools and opportunities to connect with people across the globe, why not keep inspiring each other, online and offline”. Are you excited yet? 🙂