Online English Courses - the ESL Revolution
The Teaching Revolution
Today’s technology means that whether you are in Beijing or Kathmandu, learning English or psychology the internet has made education more available, to more people than at any other time in history.
In the 1970’s there were articles in the news about children who lived in isolated areas of the Australian outback and were taught at home by radio, teenagers in Africa who were schooled remotely and then modern technology intervened and they had bulky video cameras on tripods along with massive television sets to accomplish the job. You really needed to turn your house into a small TV studio to be taught at home.
Over the last five years or so a revolution has quietly been taking place, bringing lessons into the home is now easier than ever before. Vast areas of the planet are now linked together via the internet. The development of “voice over internet protocol” systems (VOIP) like Skype mean you can keep in touch with the other side of the globe, simple by using your computer.
Gone too are the days when you had to book your telephone call between South Africa and Great Britain, then wait a couple of hours while they physical connected the wires and cables. These days this is achieved instantly and at a price which makes the main telephone companies wince. Russia recently said they were going to ban VOIP systems as they were a threat to national security; it is more likely to do with the threat to the government coffers than its safety.
Then ever smaller webcams arrived; reminiscent of James Bond’s fanciful technology, meaning we can now easily hold video conferences. This is something that not long ago was deemed another figment of the Science Fiction writers’ imagination. Telephone lines were too small and slow for it ever to be possible, the cost of rewiring the country was prohibitive. However here we now are talking and seeing each other over the net.
The biggest change in on-line teaching came with the appearance of computer based “white boards”, although still relatively new to our schooling systems they have quite simply revolutionised education. Now teachers can instantly give PowerPoint presentations, DVD clips watched and pupils can listen to music, while you can write on the surface like a conventional classroom blackboard. It didn’t take long for software developers to create a version for computers, so now you can have a high tech teaching environment in the comfort of your own home.
Using on-line conferencing, webcams and “white boards” there is now a growing army of on-line, virtual schools with remote teachers and kitchen table students. All are eager to embrace this new teaching style, whether it’s taking Physics courses or participating in English conversations. Daily you will find teachers downloading Youtube clips to illustrate your subject, pupils can listen to native speakers of the language they are learning or you can argue your point with a truly multi-national classroom, which is quite literally all around the world.
While I will miss the clattering of the slide projector and the squeaking of chalk on a blackboard, you can’t help but be excited about the future of education.
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