Spencer International’s interest in technology has given us reason to focus our attention on the way in which modern technology can work to make the lives of teachers easier by closing the information gap, or how it may help learners cope with the demands of learning in modern society.
The marriage of classrooms and technology is nothing new – every technological innovation is heralded at some point as a panacea for the problems identified in traditional classrooms. However, successful language learning relies heavily on interaction between participants in the classroom, and it is only recently that technology has been able to facilitate this interactional connection outside of the classroom. The success of online language platforms now allow teachers and students in different countries to work together in real time. This means a child in Beijing can study with a teacher who is at home in Colorado. These learning platforms include interactive whiteboards, games and videos, and can even let multiple students join a lesson, so students in completely different places can study together. No longer do all the participants in a class need to be in the same physical location to engage in an interactive, communicative language classroom. Best of all, these teaching platforms are simple, so they can be used independently by very young learners as well as cranky, technophobic teachers.
These innovations in teaching are also changing teacher education. Teaching is a highly practical profession which requires an intensive qualification process. Learning to be a teacher traditionally requires trainee teachers to spend time with a mentor or teaching supervisor as they go through their teaching practice. Technological advances can now facilitate remote teacher education through online tutoring modules, remote video streaming, and learning management system software. It is now increasingly possible for a teacher in Johannesburg to learn to teach English to students in Xi’an under the supervision of a teacher in Devonshire.
Over the last 20 years Spencer International has researched and implemented a variety of blended learning, e-classroom technology and distant learning solutions, but with the advances in teacher- and student-based technologies, we have now expanded our focus on how trainers, teachers and students can interact in real time across large distances. Our teacher training programme now includes an introduction to online learning techniques. In addition, we are in the process of building and piloting our own language learning platform for teachers based in Thailand teaching students in Cambodia and China. With these IT tools, our teaching team are looking forward to teaming up to strengthen our contribution to this exciting online learning revolution.