Recently I attended the International Academic Conference on Education, Teaching and E-learning in Prague.
I met a bevy of great experts. One of them was Janusz Zalewski, Ph.D., a professor of Computer Science from Florida Gulf Coast University. In his opinion, the traditional schema of education – one teacher and many students in a physical classroom – has died. The classroom no longer works as it worked for many previous generations.
Modern students are comfortable with studying, answering emails, taking calls, chatting on Facebook, and doing homework all at the same time. Life is much busier and more complex than before.
So how is this transforming education? We see a mixture of traditional forms with modern trends. As an example, professor Zalewski told me about a gala evening of poetry at the National Theatre in Warsaw in 2013. This famous Polish theater was celebrating its 100-year anniversary. The gala featured Polish poets in USA, who belong to the third generation of immigrants and whose mother tongue is now English. The gala was a smashing success. The poetry was wonderfully received by the audience, and the actors reading the Polish translations were brilliant. Thanks to cybernetics, the traditional form of poetry was transmitted online via the Internet and is now available through the modern medium of YouTube. And the result is amazing – Polish American
poetry is available for everyone, including some rare masterpieces.
The same principle shows itself with on-line learning. We take the best of the classical education style – interactive dialog between a student and a teacher, lecture, traditional homework, evaluations, and then we add something extra: the opportunity to be in class, with any teacher in the world, from any corner of the world. Even 10 years ago,
this was hardly imaginable!
On-line education is also more inspiring and dynamic. It demands great self-discipline and emotional intelligence to make a connection with your student. I asked one Russian friend of mine, who has been teaching international students for more than 10 years, what she thinks about Skype learning. She replied, “Oh, it is so challenging! Being in a traditional classroom is much easier for the teacher. There you can use body language and explanatory materials which are not always easy to show on Skype. Skype teaching redefines “perfection” at a much higher level. Your speech and visual presentation must take into account certain constraints, such as audio quality and the size of the computer screen, and within these constraints, you must somehow still display the same passion and variety you would show in the traditional classroom.”
The good teacher, as a good coach, can’t promise an effortless Olympic Gold medal. A good teacher offers cooperation, encouragement and support, but a golden result comes only after hours and hours of hard work. The convenience of online learning should never be mistaken as a sign that learning itself is easy. Only if you enjoy this process is it possible to expect the ‘miracle’ of fluently speaking in your favorite
Sofia Zigmund, LOS Consultant