Almost 10 months ago I hosted the first E-Teachers Conference and in case you are wondering what happened to it, I am working on the launch of the new and revised version ;).
Anyway, the topic of the event was “Lesson Slides and Virtual Classrooms – do we really need them?”. I would love to share the recording with you but due to some “hick ups” that led to the total crash and burn of the meeting there is none available. Also the second part of the evening that was backed up by eduFire did not record the event properly.
Two take aways from this evening: I am known as Skype fan girl and Heike Philp’s legendary 20 reasons why to prefer a virtual classroom to Skype only in language teaching. This blog post has recently been republished by Stefan Booy on the Myngle blog. I was thinking of writing a quick response to this but the more I thought about it the more it became clear that it can’t be done in just one post.
Hence I decided to give my two cents on every single point in a series of, yes, you guessed it, twenty blog posts starting today with reason number one:
1) Annotations help visualization
Images are great teaching aids and annotating them in real-time on a whiteboard can really drive the learning experience. (Comment by Harman of WizIQ)
Good point but what else would you expect. Harman and his team at WiZiQ built one of the best virtual classrooms available today.
I agree, making annotations especially the student him/herself is a great way to learn something and to bring it into the longterm memory. Alternatives using Skype are of course pen and paper or the chat protocol. The advantage of a virtual classroom here is that most of them are capable of recording the lesson for later review and therefore the student has the picture and the annotations in one place.
But from my personal experience as online language teacher I can say that most of my students still print out the material I send them for the lessons in advance and then annotate on the paper directly. For most people this is still a more natural way than typing something on the keyboard. Those sheets of paper also work detached from the internet and are portable, I know that my students take their material with them on holidays to learn with it.
This is a gap a tablet device might fill and hence change. Those devices will also be portable, the students will store their ebooks, songs and movies on them and hence carry them around in the house or on the road naturally. Also the touch screen will be closer to writing something with a pen and devices like the entourage eDGe already allow different kinds of annotations and intuitive uses.
Said that, although a good point and already a proven offline method I don’t think that this reason would really lead students and teachers jumping on a virtual classroom. There is one important thing you have to keep in mind. Quoting Clay Shirky
Nothing becomes mainstream unless it gets technically boring.
Virtual Classrooms are not technically boring. You have to jump through a lot of loops before you can actually enter it. You might have to set up an account on a platform or the Virtual Classroom host, you might need to download a client on your computer, you might need to install a new Flash or Java plugin, you might need to change your firewall settings etc all to use this device for one or two language lessons per week.
Skype is technically boring. Most people that are potential online students, hence people who use the internet for various reasons from shopping to banking, from social networks to research will have Skype installed already and use it privately. It is something they know because they use it to stay in contact with friends and family or for work. It’s an every day tool so the idea to use it to get in contact with a language teacher is a no brainer.