This interview describes the e-teaching system in detail by the teacher who first started using it.
Reporter: Steve, how do you find your new job?
Teacher: Easier, more rewarding, creative, and very very stimulating.
R: Is it because of the new teaching method that the quality of your work has improved?
T: Yes, no doubt. I am lucky to be living in times when e-media was invented. You know, I am an ardent supporter of innovations.
R: What ages are your students?
T: I work with virtually all ages: pupils from 9 to 12 years, high school and university students and adults. Itís hard for a teacher to simultaneously teach such a variety of ages and levels and without the computer I wouldnít manage. It's because I am doing my best to deliver quality lessons. Being an inspector of language schools I have met teachers who put maximum effort into doing well but they face the limitations of the conventional practice. So they are discouraged and frustrated and change their profession. Well, this is the major advantage of this system Ė it helps teachers deliver quality lessons with less effort and be more creative. Routine work is automated, so they have more time to think and use their imagination, at work and out of work. It turns teaching from an exhausting activity into an exciting and creative modern profession.
Before I wasted a lot of classroom time for correcting mistakes and now the computer does it for me and I have more time to interact with the students, which is important in face-to-face language teaching. Due to the improved means for class control teaching is more learner-centered and individualized so students feel comfortably in their own level. “he lessons are interesting and enjoyable and it is vitally important for a private school.
This system turns the computer into a servant of the teacher, a powerful assistant and a tool to increase effectiveness and lessen my chores in and out of class. Because it takes less to prepare my lessons I now have more time to invent interesting activities as you can see from the web site. This system comprises all materials a teacher might ever need, and you can find and use them in the middle of the lesson without preparation. The materials are current and regularly updated and unlike paper textbooks they are free of graffiti and stains, colourful and impressive, which appeals to the students. They come here voluntarily and itís vital to charm, to captivate them. By all means my classes intrigue people and, what's more, the lessons conform to the principles of quality teaching.
R: Can your students learn English faster than at an ordinary language school?
T: No, certainly not. Itís not magic. This model promotes the quality of teaching and learning, not the speed. It improves the nature of instruction, because it engages the student, helps the teacher work better with less effort, enables precise assessment. It helps me assign suitable tasks to students with different abilities and keep them engaged throughout the lesson. So it does not speed up learning, but it certainly eases the life of teachers, students and school administrators.
R: How much do you use the computer, Steve? I mean do you use paper at all?
T: Yes, the students have notebooks and vocabularies. But the presentations and exercises are active and animated, they interact with the student like in those Harry Potter films Ė at Hogwarts they have books and newspapers with animated pictures.
R: Do you give homework assignments to your students.
T: It depends on the age and the objectives of the course. The system ensures better learning in class but assignments and projects are not excluded. Once I have the information in the computer I can do anything with it: project it by a multimedia projector, use it on interactive boards or send it by e-mail for homework. Our students receive assignments and they do projects as well - on paper and on computer.
R: Can this system be applied for distance learning?
T: I don't believe in distance courses for languages because you teach skills and you need the students in person. And itís not possible with children. Besides that, teaching languages requires more varied materials than, say, economics or IT. The student needs an authentic environment and a wide variety of materials, so you need films, sounds, fairy tales, reading texts, dictations, translations, games, speaking, human interaction.
R: And you have all these things in your model?
T: Yes, I can do everything which is done in a traditional school plus a lot more, like effective development of multiple intelligences of children. We do needs analysis, entry, progress and final tests, we develop all skills: listening, reading, speaking and writing both on computer and on paper. And thatís a major merit of the e-class Ė they master text processing, editing and keyboard skills though they are not the subject of the course. For many of the children, especially those who cannot afford a computer at home it is two courses in one, which is cheaper and beneficial for them.
And also assessment - it has always been an issue in teaching. People generally do not realize the dependence of the adult personality and character on childhood and adolescence, i.e. the importance of school years. Due to the incorrect method of testing children lose confidence and gain fear of taking chances which blocks their creativity as adults. With this system assessment is timely, objective, accurate and requires no teacher time for managing.
R: Many schools claim to apply multimedia and e-learning. What is the difference between your system and commercial applications?
T: This model is designed for professional application at schools and meets education standards. Commercial CDs are suitable for self study at home. Language teachers worldwide prefer textbooks because they are still more effective. But this system here excels traditional paper-based instruction in every respect; it is original and completely different from what you can find elsewhere. Apart from its academic merits, it performs absolutely all financial and administrative tasks at my school and also provides means for inspection by authorities.
This prototype is not only a software application. Itís actually smart hardware solutions, know-how and improved teaching methodology, security and reliability both of hardware and software. The interface and the graphic design meet the hygienic and safety requirements, as well as does the whole classroom. The system also consists of study materials and most important, hands-on experience.
As you can see for yourself it is not just an idea, but a real functioning language school where children and adults come to study English and computer at the same time. Itís still a prototype, but a fully functional prototype. It works, itís real and it gives results.
R: Indiscipline in class has always been a problem. What about your students?
T: I think children are bored by the outdated paper-based media and they react subconsciously, because conventional schooling is an anachronism. Computer is their natural media, which they accept readily and yearn for. The whole organization of the lesson is different, it is better controlled and students have less chances to misbehave. Őoreover they are not willing to, because the lesson is more enjoyable than the outside world.
T: Our system is a better alternative for everybody in education: students, teachers, administrators, even school inspectors. This system meets each and every requirement for academic and administrative management as suggested by EAQUALS Ė The European Association for Quality Language Services Ė and it also offers much more than is required. Actually the system helps the teacher prepare faster, manage the class and lesson flow easier and in this way maintain a high professional level. Iíll give you an example.
The system checks and corrects each and every exercise, which is what I call 'effective error correction'. Now imagine what effect it would have on thousands of students - this would result in far more accurate and objective assessment at schools. Besides that it is designed for multilingual and mixed ability classes and helps the students better understand the lesson and thus gain confidence.
Some quality criteria are very easy to meet, among them Planning of the lesson, Well defined stages, Appropriate timing and sequencing of activities, Suitable teaching materials, Availability of syllabuses, Use of entry or placement procedures, Needs analyses, On-going assessment of students, Opportunities for continuous training and development of teachers. “he system includes a sizable number of materials for teacher training, all of them searchable by topic, age, level and available in seconds, as you might guess.
T: The system meets important market requirements and solves current acute human, social and environmental problems, and has a manifold beneficial impact. Firstly, it meets the current market demand for people who have language and computer skills so the school will attract more students. Secondly it improves the quality of teaching, so it will also attract and keep younger teachers. Thirdly, the system has a powerful administrative management part which will assist administrators, academic directors and education authorities.
Students would like going to school because the lessons are exciting and learning will suddenly become interesting. Our system introduces "edutainment" and "funderstanding" in class. Adults would also love it because it's more natural, interesting, entertaining, they study the language in a more authentic environment with real-life situations and master fluency and conversational language. And students can also use its self-access capability, which is also provided as an option. The fact that it is a bilingual system where L1 and L2 can be any world language is also a merit. I think that the system will charm the students by its authentic and relaxed atmosphere, its logical organization and fair assessment.
Teachers would love to work with it because it makes their job easier and more effective. Directions for each event are immediately available. Teachers can share information with their colleagues which saves time and provides for self-improvement. The teacher has complete control in virtually every situation that might occur in class. For instance often when the students are tired the teacher needs something relaxing like a song or a film or an interesting reading. With our system it takes seconds to find the appropriate material, get it ready and give it to the students.
It may seem strange because these features havenít been available with paper textbooks and are unique for our system, but I can assure you that we have paid special attention to class control and lesson flow. Besides that the system is very easy to learn and work with. There is also a lot of professional reading for teachers who want to improve. This feature on the other hand aids the Director of Studies. This model has a future because it has a favourable impact in many directions.
School owners and directors would buy it, because it is the correct strategy: it will help a school survive in the competition and will ensure flexibility and unique learning environment, appropriate for its profile, aims, staff, students and customers. It is also invaluable for ESP, language audits and tailor-made courses. Administrative management is facilitated, as well.
Then come overhead expenses: just imagine how much would be saved from the copier only Ė the machine itself, then paper, consumables, maintenance, repairs, time and lots of trouble. And teachers would stay for better working conditions and opportunities for professional advancement. This system meets these conditions.
Planning is the most essential part in education. The system helps everybody at the school from the head to the ordinary teacher perform effective and easy planning at all levels. My students are more engaged because the lesson is transparent to them and I can also study their preferences and take them into account later in planning and preparing the next lessons. If applied at a big school this approach can do miracles.
And last but not least. As an inspector of language schools I can assure you that this prototype is built so as to provide for an easy, fast, objective and reliable inspection of both the administrative and the academic management of a school. The work of a school inspector, which traditionally takes half or a whole day is now done in a couple of minutes with unquestionable evidence. Attendance records of students and staff are automated, syllabuses and lesson plans can be found in seconds. Teacher training sessions are also recorded. The system creates perfect internal order of documentation. So there should be no obstacles for an electronic school to gain accreditation. Merely adopting this e-teaching model will instantly make a school conform to European quality standards.
R: Steve, can your system be applied for teaching other subjects as well?
T: Yes, of course, the system can teach all theoretical subjects in the curriculum. I use it to teach English because thatís what I do for a living. However to present the students with a wider variety of vocabulary and prepare them for more real-life situations I include topics from History, Geography, Maths, world cultures, Music, space, mass media, cinema, entertainment, sport and in this way I broaden the range of their vocabulary.
R: Is it hard to learn to work with the system.
T: No, it isnít. Itís logically built and it will take not more than a couple of days for a new teacher to get used to it. Especially young teachers Ė it will fascinate them, Iím sure.
Children worldwide are disinterested in school and learning. So the sooner we introduce their natural media the better. The system gives opportunities which are worth the efforts of its introduction. And the risk is far less than it seems. It wasn't easy in the beginning, but the news about the new school spread around and the future looks brighter now.