With the vast changes in teaching and learning that have literally been forced upon educators since early 2020, we as language teachers must stay focused upon our goal: to meaningfully engage with students and support their language learning. This article will discuss six key concepts that address teaching and learning using distance, hybrid, and blended platforms, e.g., going from 100% online education to employing a mixture of online and f2f class environments. With each of the six concepts you will find a “Reflect, Respond, and Rethink” section to help you process your opinions and feelings as you transition towards new ways of teaching.
1. Find Your Own Place
All of us, not just language educators, must accept that the pandemic has changed our lives and our teaching practice. In adapting to the cyber classroom environment, you will find that many of your best practices for teaching f2f will remain the same. Certainly, differences and challenges exist. Nevertheless, it is possible to become adept and to enjoy teaching online or teaching in a blended environment. Like all moves into new places, you must make yourself feel comfortable. Here are some key ideas to consider:
Question everything about teaching & learning:
- Remember that student behavior will shift as they, too, adapt to online and blended platforms.
- These shifts are here to stay; they will be long term.
- Delivering excellence in instruction at a distance is new – you are allowed to make mistakes, and no one expects you to be a tech master quickly.
- Gathering & discovering knowledge has changed before we shifted to online platforms; the advent of the Internet has changed the dynamics of who is a knowledge authority, and who has the right to disseminate knowledge.
- The challenge of authentic engagement via digital medium is real but can be overcome. You can find this information from other educators and from your own experimentation.
- Don’t forget that creating joy & curiosity via digital immersion is also a vital goal.
How much do you know regarding the context of learning and teaching? How will you adapt to the changing context?
How does your teaching tone offer hope as well as knowledge?
How can you add valuable experiences via virtual formats?
2. Offer Students DIY Options
In addition to a technological shift in teaching and learning there has also been a paradigm shift in the roles of educators and students. This again is due to the Internet – which has allowed an incredible free flow of information of all kind to be readily available at the click of a mouse.
Question Your Teaching Style
- The lines between teacher and learner are blurred.
re: knowledge construction and demonstration
- Try shifting from prescriptive to more suggestive teaching; consider co-creation as an output goal for both teacher and student.
- Try using tools and platforms that allow your students to demonstrate tech skills as well as language proficiency.
How will you shift your mindset from captive to co-creator students?
How strong is your commitment to the long term, mastering digital resources, using them, and applying them as innovative rituals in your classroom?
Do you see yourself as a glocal (global-local) collaborator, share your ideas and data with educators and students everywhere?
3. Dream Teams
The term dream teams is meant to encourage you to think beyond the Scrabble box: think Star Trek instead! How can you enhance the way you teach and the way your students learn by truly taking advantage of today’s technology?
Here are Some Key Areas for Learning Experiences:
- Technology – Explore and use new software and websites for not just teaching but other aspects of your life – this will help you feel more at ease with technology in general.
- Culture – Think about building community remotely and considering f2f as a premium. We will return to f2f classrooms, but it will also be an option.
- Talent – Recognize and recruit non-linguistic talent all around you – from family, colleagues and your students – to enhance everyone’s learning, yourself included.
- Maintain control over privacy – create quality experiences online while protecting your own and your students’ privacy.
Consider how you value the ethics of remote teaching and learning; home is both personal and learning space; respect privacy
Articulate your expectations for communication, behavior, productivity
What are your ideas concerning reciprocity, design flexible courses & modelling resilience?
4. Screen Action
The commercial world has already long ago converted to online spaces due to the need to remain viable in a rapidly changing global economy. In a way, the pandemic has been a boon to students and instructors, because it has opened up new pathways for the processes of teaching and learning. Take advantage of this change: ride the wave.
- Try using models from entertainment: gamify teaching, livestream + recorded video, incorporate social media platforms.
- Experiment with design: use lush, silly, odd teaching screens – engage their eyes and emotions.
- Count your environmental blessings: remember that the CO2 impact of going digital will become a global priority.
How will you create a balance between health and digital immersion?
Are you willing to take risks with your online teaching?
Will you explore online resources constantly and consistently to keep up?
5. Online Empathy
Every educator, in every field, from kindergarten to college, understands that we can teach effectively if our students don’t feel cared for. In many schools assessors will randomly ask students: Can you name three people in this school that care about you and your success? This emotional hook has been proven to be essential for learning of all kinds.
Where does Empathy Play Out in Your Classroom?
- Empathy is fundamental to good teaching design.
- Your actions and messages should be carefully thought out in terms of timing, content and delivery.
- In the last several decades, stories and storytelling have become core components of teaching and learning, because they build empathy, as well as allow the sharing of information.
How can you bring lesson design & authentic communication together?
How can you create open narratives that engage and align to your teaching objectives?
What tasks can you adopt to take empathy beyond the digital classroom (e.g., humanitarian projects, business internship projects)?
6. Reliable Rituals
In our daily lives we have rituals that bring us a sense of security and help us to move forward through the day in positive ways. Classroom rituals are instilled in small children to give them comfort and help with discipline and socialization. In the language classroom, for all ages, these rituals are important because language learners are navigating new linguistic territory. These learners need to have a sense of safety and security because language learning is not linear. Such anchors help students if grammar and lexicon make the feel that they are on ‘rocky linguistic seas.’
Consider how to make Online Rituals:
- Digital rituals can replace f2f patterns, and they should focus on building emotional connections along with rational functions.
- Consistent rituals bring comfort and a sense of belonging to adults as well as youth.
- Key rituals act as anchors – for the class to share and celebrate key learning.
Can you embrace behavioral design principles & link rituals with purposes?
Are your rituals authentic, culturally sensitive, and do they convey a sense of ‘all of us are in this together’?
Language learning objectives can also have mental health objectives – how can you build confidence, empathy, and leadership via your rituals?
The pandemic has changed everything: the way we work, learn, shop, play, and communicate. The paradigm shift we are undergoing as teachers and learners is just part of the wheel of change that has powered human innovation over the centuries These new forms of teaching: 100% online to hybrid, and even the traditional standby of f2f, can be viewed positively. All we know for sure is that everything has changed, and changed quickly, due to an unforeseeable pandemic. It is quite possible that further, even more radical shifts in teaching and learning will take place in the next decade, as artificial intelligence (AI) continues to make great strides.