Teacher Stories: I-work-online is not a dirty word

I´ve always been fascinated with online culture; you can reach out to almost anyone in the world with just an internet connection.

Even as I was signing over the rest of my savings  for a CELTA certificate, my primary goal was to teach online. As a designer, the concept of a virtual classroom is exciting to me and I love to use media and technology in my work. This can be an excellent experience and a great way to reach out to a much wider audience than your physical location can provide. We have numerous programs and apps being built and used every day to enhance our experience with communication and connectivity, teaching is a part of this revolution and many sit divided on the fence about its usage and capabilities. Our recent participation in the online conference for the British Council being part of this. The differences between pro media savvy individuals that use this technology ever day and the rest who felt their content would over ride the basic media functions of a conference.

I must admit, I did not enjoy my course at all, I was surrounded by mostly young almost academic types with little to no life experience and a penchant for cheap beer. The incredibly taxing schedule made me appreciate any current student balancing such intense contact hours and homework levels.

I expressed my interest in teaching online during my course- which was met with mostly eyebrows and side glances. That it was not real teaching, somehow lesser in experience and talent than holding court in an actual classroom with a whiteboard and textbooks. I felt this to be an interesting outlook given the amount of things I have actually learned online- from languages to various short courses, significantly enhancing my knowledge I would have found difficult to access otherwise. My entire background incorporates visual communication in some way or another and I only saw online as a way to enhance this capability rather than some lesser form of being physically present.

Though I do understand the hesitation… there are countless variables, many pitfalls and misuses. It is still however, quite a negative way to look at the situation in light of the incredible possibility it offers. People who work in these fields beyond ESL are usually focused on the user experience as they are well aware of the mechanical divorce from human connectivity that users often experience with over-participation in online culture. The focus on connectivity to enhance this aspect of the user experience is the direction of development for most R&D centres of every app in the market.

But what does this have to do with teaching ESL in a classroom environment?

Beyond the obvious case of persons living in remote areas, the technology aware children of our era are usually more comfortable using computers than speaking a second language. Programs that allow teachers to use technology effectively can create a fantastic, more memorable experience to the textbook standard being taught in some schools. A medium focused on enhancing connectivity whilst discovering new ways to incorporate visual media, enhanced audio and speaking practices may also help to support many types of learners who are often overlooked in physical classrooms.

Technology as a whole does not have to be viewed as the destruction of social etiquette and the death of a basic attention span (blame candy crush for that). Approached intelligently, we can create an experience rich in connectivity, audio visual material (and even in some aspects cultural) that works, is relevant for our time and responsibly promotes the most positive aspects of human interaction, learning capacity and culture.

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