Is traditional teaching really “doomed”?09-May-2013
As I’m sure you’ll already know, online learning is steaming ahead. In fact you must know, otherwise you probably wouldn’t be reading the BlendedMEC.com blog right now. A lot of big names have already stepped into the online learning discussion, all the way up to Bill Gates. Now another influential voice has muscled in in favour of shaking things up – the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales.
The headline in the news sounds pretty ominous: “Boring lectures are doomed”. It’s something teachers understandably dread to hear – ‘is this the end of my livelihood?’ you can hear them cry. Jimmy’s thoughts are interesting – he stresses that the teacher should remain a central part of the teaching process, and that online learning can be used to make the most of students’ and teachers’ time by encouraging students to explore, research and interact outside of the classroom, and open up opportunities available to us in a connected world. People in the Wikipedia era are used to being able to dip into information when and where they like.
The founder of the fifth-most visited website in the world also talks about the benefit of online education for distance learning. People who have never had access to schools, books or teachers should be able to connect to the world and learn; the same as people in developed communities. This is already happening with the One Laptop per Child scheme, which aims to give kids from all walks of life access to computers and to the internet, whether it’s a school in an urban centre in a fast-developing country like Armenia or in a remote place in Africa or South America. In Uruguay, for example, a government-funded project is underway to reach people living in small villages so they can learn English via distance learning – classes given through an online classroom (think WebEx, Skype, Blackboard) with the help of interactive resources.
This point might seem pretty specific, but I think it can apply to anyone – not least your own students. Businesspeople, as one example, don’t always have time to devote to a weekly English class at a set time in a fixed place. To remedy this, you could go as far as giving classes over the internet, or just give students simple access to stimulating, interactive and varied material that follows what they want to learn. That’s something we all discussed here for the latest updates of Macmillan English Campus– searchable resources, new videos, daily snippets of English and a new way of viewing courses and scores to make it easier for students to check their progress.
So it’s not all doom and gloom. I recently gave a talk at the IATEFL conference with a teacher from a school in the Netherlands which uses a school-wide virtual learning environment where students can access not only their work, but also videos and other material teachers upload, as well as using English Campus to refresh and enhance their English lessons. She told the audience to take the plunge themselves. But most importantly she told them it was up to them whether to stay in the shallow end or dare to go deeper. It all depends on what works best for you, and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of experimentation in the classroom. If you want to dip your toes into online learning and haven’t tried yet, take a look at Nik Peachey’s ‘Tech Tools for Teachers’ series on onestopenglish.com or at his Scoopit page. We also have a whole book of articels on getting started with digital availble to download for free, here.