Imagine if a single teacher could teach several students from many districts in multiple states in varying countries all around the world. One teacher could reach thousands of students. It may not surprise to learn that this is the goal of several organizations around the globe. This starts with the use of a simple, free software called Skype. Of course, there are other software programs and apps that have a similar function but for popularity sake, we’ll use Skype. The idea is using Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) for educational purposes. CMC services like Skype, are rapidly growing because of the convenience of use in terms of communication across large distances. I’m sure that these services would also benefit those in the business field for cross country/ international meetings; for another example. Our focus today is the impact of the implementation of the CMC software programs about education.
Consider this, a single doctor could provide basic medical training to those willing to volunteer in third world countries. Or a single teacher could teach a language to several countries at one time. Pretty incredible really… Yet, these ideas are already in full swing; the real interest is where these programs are heading.
Let’s look at a speculative fictitious novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, in which (MINOR SPOILER ALERT) the world has adapted to using a massive virtual reality world known as the Oasis. In the novel minors have the option to attend school in the real world or can register to take courses inside virtual classrooms within the Oasis. Basically, this is everything that I have already described, upgraded. The virtual classrooms are programmed to ensure that the students are present, unable to move or disrupt the class, and led by an active actual teacher. Another feature described in the book is the ability for the class to take “field trips”. Essentially, the classroom changes to display any location at any time throughout history. Ok, the field trip thing is a little far-fetched; but teaching to a virtual classroom, not so much. Side note: great book.
One of the major uses of teaching online using CMC programs is learning a second language or perhaps teaching English to non-English speaking students, which can be all ages. I chose this topic above medicine or business because to become an international community we must first focus on communication. Communication is easily the biggest barrier the world faces when uniting. I’m not saying that everyone needs to learn English; it was just an example. In fact, Dr. Inigo Yanguas, presently at the University of San Diego, uses Spanish as his target language in a study he did, documented in his article, “Oral Computer-Mediated Interaction Between L2 Learners: It’s About Time!”. Dr. Yanguas established three controlled groups: audio (online), visual plus audio (online), and face-to-face. Results concluded that the audio based control group faltered slightly because of the lack of facial cues (Yanguas, 2010).
In a similar research article conducted by Master’s student James Coburn of the University of Oslo, Coburn found that experienced teachers were able to work effectively with students through Skype using (VOIP) Voice Over Internet Protocol. “The study focuses on the teaching of English conversation to undergraduate students in Iran… using audio conferencing (Skype)” (Coburn, 2010).
Is this a new adaptation of teaching? Of course it is! Presumably, this method of teaching is convenient as long as the students have access to an Internet accessible device. Internet-based courses are going to change curricula around the world. Consider that a textbook, while rich with specified information based on a group of intellectual’s views, has limits. Internet-based curricula allow for guided creativity and experimentation, not to mention the large amount of students per class. One book for one student, or one Internet course for 35 students? That’s easy math.
What about you, teachers? What are your thoughts?
Talk to you soon, be well, and Cheers.
Cline, Ernest. Ready Player One. New York: Random House, 2011. Print.
Coburn, James Neil. "Teaching Oral English Online-Through Skype (VOIP)."Acta Didactica Norge 4.1 (2010): Art-1.
Yanguas, Íñigo. "Oral computer-mediated interaction between L2 learners: It’s about time." Language Learning & Technology 14.3 (2010): 72-93.