Some say that the largest English language school in the world is the one made up of independent teachers like the 7 below. I thought I’d ask them a very simple question so that we can learn from their experience and shake up a discussion on best practices in online teaching. Here are their 100 words on:
George Machlan of St. George’s Academy of Dragon Slaying and Spoken English
“I doubt that I would have listened but here is what I wish someone would have told me:
Do not reinvent the wheel, particularly when wheels are free or nearly free on the internet. I spent countless hours developing my own materials and researching the myriad of online teaching tools. Some of you are natural course and material writers, so this is not for you. Most of you are like me, uniquely gifted in helping others to learn. For some crazy reason we think we must create original materials and lesson plans. What a sad misuse of our time and talents. I am an edutainer and master fun-a-holic. I now use materials created by experts (e.g. Edulang) but quickly adjust the materials to fit my style and a student’s interests. When I fully realized how special my abilities were, I quit trying to do everything else. I tell folks that I am like a fighter pilot, I need not learn how to build a jet or the technical aspects of aeronautics, I fly and leave the building to others.” George’s site and twitter.
Michael DiGiacomo from Happy English
“Since I only teach one-to-one lessons, teaching online is pretty much the same as teaching while sitting across the table from a student. However, there are a few things I wish I had known before I started doing it. In particular, there is no whiteboard in cyberspace. It took almost six months of using Skype before I realized it had a function where I could share my desktop, thus turning my MS word document into a cyber-whiteboard. The other thing is about bandwidth. Unless both teacher and student have a decent internet connection, the possibility of a poor connection can ruin the lesson, and this situation can happen with both free software, like Skype, and pay applications like Web-Ex.” Michael’s site and twitter.
“In practical terms, I wish I had known how easy it is to start out on skype; The importance of having your own website; The importance of letting tools & media work for you, not the other way around and that building up a reputation will ensure a steady stream of students from diverse sources. In educational terms: the establishment is dead – build your brand beyond the walls… the power of indulging in right-brain delinquency. How social media, philanthropy & sharing can impact global learning.” In inspirational terms: the importance of letting your talents shape your teaching brand. Allowing content creation & curation to reflect your inner teaching values. The importance of cultivating a powerful PLN & making a difference in education.” Sylvia’s blog and her twitter.
“Build a strong online presence and showcase and establish your reputation as an expert via a blog and other social media sites. A static website isn’t enough. Teaching online is a business and not simply a vocation – start building an email list as soon as you start teaching. There are only so many hours a day you can teach – identify your passions and areas of expertise and turn them into teaching products to sell. There will always be a multitude of wonderful new tools and resources to learn about and experiment with– don’t try and master them all!” Angela’s site, and twitter.
“When I started teaching online, I created a website, facebook and twitter. I have a lot of contacts worldwide and thought that would be enough to get the word out about my lessons… it wasn’t. A friend told me about online language communities and I think it is a good idea to start out with a third party site that promotes you as a teacher. Do your research and find one that fits your style the best. Some take a cut of your earnings and others give you materials and have guidelines for your sessions.” Jessica’s site and twitter.
Al Slagle of AlSensei
“I wish someone would have shared with me how to engage with students better online. At first, I was just “blasting” content out to students without creating more of a discussion.
When I wasn’t getting many replies on Twitter, comments on my blog, or “likes” on Facebook, I realized that I must be doing something wrong. I gradually learned to involve students more and encouraged them to participate by asking for their opinions and other questions. Now I aim to go for engagement right off the bat, and as much as possible.” Al’s site and twitter.
Anna Letitia Cook from English Angels shared a different point of view and I think it wraps the post us PERFECTLY:
“My experience of online teaching has been very positive – I love it! The human relationships developed are particularly rewarding. Not only do you have the great pleasure of being able to work with clients from all over the world, but you have the opportunity to experience the different mentalities and cultures of each country.
I notice a difference between webcam and voice only sessions, webcam being closer to face-to-face whereas voice-only creates a very intuitive and emotional level of understanding and support. You can hear, in an instant, whether your student understands, whether they feel confident, even whether or not they are having a good or bad day in general. For me, online seems to develop a closer, warmer and more trusting relationship.” Anna’s site and twitter.
AND YOU, the other Online teachers of the World, what are your online teaching tips?