I’ve been teaching English to children and adults from all over the world for the past four years. It's an exciting and rewarding job that has given me opportunities to travel across Asia and Europe. For the past year I've been teaching at SKOLA English in London. As the UK has entered into lockdown due to the spread of the coronavirus, I’ve had to consider other ways of teaching students.
Online teaching has been around for a while. I’ve always toyed with the idea of teaching from home. For some reason I thought it was too good to be true and not an authentic way of learning a language. Traditional classrooms allow children to take part in creative activities with other students. This makes me wonder, how beneficial is online learning? Well, as we’ve all been forced to adapt to another way of living and working, I’ve found myself fully-fledged into the world of online teaching. I’m here to now tell you why online language learning is a helpful approach to learning English.
Throughout my teaching career, I have spent countless hours sieving through textbooks to find material. I've spent many mornings juggling photocopying while helping students entering the school. It wouldn’t be unusual for me to arrive to class slightly stressed. But with a sip of coffee and seeing the look on my eager students' faces, I switched into teacher mode and I was ready to go! Well, the reality of daily life when it comes to online teaching is quite the contrary as I’ve experienced.
You’re relaxed in your home, you’ve had a good breakfast- because you’ve had time! You’re not battling with London transport to get to the school. A flip of a laptop lid and your student appears in front of you. It really is as smooth as that. I'm able to select materials from our online library. It’s been a much easier task navigating exactly what I’m looking for. I can enhance my lessons with youtube videos, fetch a picture at a click of a button and explore websites with my student as we share screens. A routine textbook-based lesson has now become an exciting technological experience. I can now bring the textbook to life!
I love the function of sharing my screen with my students using Zoom. It makes sure we are all on the same page. I can highlight sentences I want my students to read to me and type up any errors they make. There is also the use of fun interactive games to practise vocabulary. There are only so many flashcard games you can use in the classroom! These are just some of the advantages of an online learning platform such as Zoom.
Using a platform such as Zoom is fantastic as, I’m still able to use my own teaching style. I tailor each lesson material and plan to each individual student’s needs. Other online teaching platforms often have a rigid syllabus to teach. At OnlineLessons teachers plan the lessons based on their expertise and experience.
One of my current students has shown a great interest in crime fiction. With this in mind, I set her some criteria to write her own story as homework ready to read to me in our next lesson. While she’s reading, I will type up any errors she makes to go through afterwards. She can see the error she has made and correct herself. This shifts the burden from me as a teacher to remember her errors. A much more rapid method in error correction. No more faffing with dry marker pens to write up errors on a whiteboard.
My skills as a teacher have been reinforced. I carefully consider the learning goals and objectives for each student. This has given me more clarity allowing me to focus on the student’s specific goals. The use of Total Physical Response (TPR) has become vital in my online lessons. I'm more animated now, relying on facial expressions, gestures and tone of voice more to convey meaning through the camera.
Online learning is a very different experience to being in the classroom. Students are guaranteed a diverse and enriching interaction with their teacher. Lessons are tailored to suit individual learning styles and specific language needs. This experience has shown me that online learning is an authentic way of obtaining a language. Interactive activities can be geared towards improving reading, writing, listening and speaking skills.
Adjusting to this new style of teaching has been an exciting journey. The technological possibilites of online learning have aided me as a teacher and grabbed the attention of my students. The convenience of it all has kept my students and I energised and ready to learn. What does this mean for the future of language learning? How will the world of education be affected in the future once the pandemic has passed? Will teachers now encourage a blended learning approach? I wasn't much of a fan of technology in the classroom, possibly because I didn't have confidence in how beneficial it was. Being plunged into the deep-end in relying on an online platform to teach, I most certainly am an advocate.
Using technology in the classroom motivates students to learn in their own way and keeps them engaged. It opens up learning opportunities that may not be available in a traditional classroom setting. Most of all, it's fun!