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Teaching on internet from home

Mark McCormack

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If you have broadband or similar speed internet connection and Windows XP you can enjoy teaching in your free time for us for good rates of pay wherever you live.

Applicants must be native English speakers. No qualifications are neccesary. Full training given.

If you are interested in receiving more information please send a brief CV to info@mypacemyplace.com

Best wishes

Mark McCormack

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Derek asks:

Can you teach if you are unqualified?

A very good question! Teaching a language face-to-face requires high-level training. Teaching a language online requires highly specialised training. Personally, I would not employ anyone who had did not have a degree-level qualification in the relevant language, plus a teaching qualification (e.g. PGCE), plus some kind of qualification in online education and training - v. the courses offered at the Institute of Education, London University: http://www.ioe.ac.uk/english/OET.htm

An excellent introduction to language learning online is:

Felix U. (ed.) (2003) Language learning online: towards best practice, Lisse: Swets & Zeitlinger. ISBN 90 265 1948 6.

See also:

Felix U. (2001) Beyond Babel: language learning online, Melbourne: Language Australia. Book plus CD-ROM, ISBN 1 876768 25 8.

Language learning online features prominently in papers presented at the regular EUROCALL, IALLT and CALICO conferences:

http://www.eurocall-languages.org (Europe)

http://www.calico.org (USA)

http://www.iallt.org (USA) - combines with the Japan Association for Language Education and Technology (LET) for FLEAT 5 in 2005: http://ce.byu.edu/cw/fleat5/

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  • 4 weeks later...
Guest Andrew Moore

The use of Internet technologies poses a challenge to those who seek to regulate teaching through the qualifications of the practitioner.

I'm no worshipper of the market, but I've seen plenty of evidence of the ways in which education, in the UK, anyway, has built itself into great edifices that serve the teacher rather than the learner.

To teach in a state school in England, one usually needs certain base qualifications - the state defines what is a qualified teacher. This status is not a requirement of teachers in independent schools, which are often represented as examples of excellence.

In one sense, one can only teach if one is qualified. But real qualification lies in what you can do, rather than what someone said that you could do at some point in the past. I think that I am qualified to teach, but do not think this has much to do with the passing of exams and a probation period as a teacher - it's more about what I learned since...

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This is a very interesting issue.

Is it the case that schools can be replaced by online training if enough people have computer access? This would save the government a fortune.

I am not of course asking whether this is a desirable outcome. There are several reasons why it would not -

* the lack of social interaction

* loss of the opportunity of learning to work with pupils from different backgrounds and with different skills

* the lack of qualified instruction

* I would have to go back to selling oranges :)

However the key matters for the government would be:

1 it is cheaper

2 it could be manipulated to produce good statistics

3 it is cheaper

OK 3 is the same as 1 but you know what New Labour is like :D

Have a nice day


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This is what we do here in Kalmar!

I've been working with a team of Internet tutors in New Zealand, Australia and Spain since 1996. It's a really interesting experience, since, when it works, you can bring expertise from wherever it happens to be directly to the students, wherever they happen to be.

We've just started developing an in-service training course for teachers who suddenly find themselves faced with teaching English as a foreign language. Many of them lack the basic university courses they need in order to be eligible for the more advanced courses which will gain them promotion (as well as giving them more of what they need). The problem is that, by definition, they can't take time out and study full-time (since they've got jobs and lives somewhere else). They're also spread out over a wide geographical area.

Now this is the sort of situation that gets the bureaucrats salivating. Problem is that they can nearly never get the actual teaching and learning to work. You can put on a good show at a conference describing the opportunities IT *can* provide … but it all usually falls apart when you try to apply the practices of the call centre to education.

Our solution has been to empower Internet tutors, making them feel part of the team, which often involves conference calls to Australia just to chat. The campus-based teachers need to take them seriously too … which in turn requires those teachers to be empowered. Maybe that can only happen in Scandinavia?

My explanation for the recurring disasters which have occurred with on-line education is that the educational bureaucrats see computers as yet another way of *disempowering* teachers … It's easy, and sexy, to put in an order for a technological system - and it saves you from having to deal with a bunch of teachers moaning on about the importance of teaching skills and all those other things you don't understand and have no power over.

When it comes to language learning by machine, my take on it is to look at Linguaphone. It's been around for about 100 years, hasn't it. If Linguaphone actually worked for any but a very small minority of people, language teachers would have been replaced by 78 rpm records, let alone CDs! Since we haven't been, I conclude that machine learning has got some very serious and fundamental problems!!

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Guest Andrew Moore

I think, Derek, that your suggestion is a parody of how one might use technologies to support learning.

The claim about social interaction derives from a sense (I think a mistaken sense) that the only contact that counts is face-to-face contact. My working life and my social life have been immeasurably enriched by any number of real-world contacts and opportunities that came to me because of social use of Internet technologies - some of them involving other members of this forum. I need only observe my daughter's use of the phone and Instant Messaging to see how technology can initiate or reinforce social interaction.

The suggestion about working with learners from different backgrounds is profoundly mistaken. It is schools that create artificial boundaries here - so that learners are forced into homogeneous groups by age and circumstance. With digital learning I can have a class that is distributed physically, varied by age and situation - I can reach the learner with ME who does not wish to waste the little energy she has each day in needless travel; the learner in prison; the learner who has gone back to stay with his or her extended family in Pakistan, and so on.

The issue of qualifications is more complex - since one may expect that students will have some instruction or guidance from people who are both expert in some academic subject and in the use of the information and learning technologies.

Far from condemning the teacher to loss of employment, the current reality is that, in the UK anyway, there are too few people to take up the opportunities to teach or mentor learners using new technologies. A few years ago, I had a faint hope that my use of the technology could improve my prospects, not only of being employed and earning a living, but also of being able to have more influence over those things, and not have to keep dancing to others' tunes. That hope has been realized very fully.

There is no prospect that all learners in the UK will receive all their learning by use of Internet technologies in the immediate future. Right now most people depend on schools, which have a near-monopoly on providing support for learning. On the other hand, schools are quite happy to provide education to the majority of biddable learners, but may be more than willing to lose the less tractable learners.

School is wonderful for some people, but not all. And it is notoriously a force for irrational conservatism - like the nonsense of enforcing uniform and policies on wearing make-up or body piercing.

The jibes about cheapness are easy to make. Working for an LEA, I have seen the enormous funding that the DfES has directed to support teaching - and the way that school leaders have often used these wastefully or inappropriately. (New Labour may be characterized by control freakery, but it's a matter of record that it spends far more on education than any previous UK administration, and compares well internationally.) If the DfES could solve its recruitment problem simply with more money, then the Treasury would loosen its purse strings. The reality is that, in Britain, there are not enough qualified teachers to sustain the traditional school system - and this is acute in certain areas. Some kinds of activity only work, or work best, when people are in the same place (playing football, say). Others can perfectly well be done at a distance (I don't need my bank to keep all my money in the local branch). In using new technologies we are finding out which things fit into these categories. Why should a learner in London or Hull not have a teacher who lives and works from home in East Yorkshire - or a beach in Greece?

If you live (as I do) in a rural area with a scattered population, then you might have a different perspective.

This process is already happening apace. If you care about learning, you can be a part of it, and fight for the things you value. Or you can snipe from a distance while other take risks and develop new kinds of institution. I know where I'd rather be.

Even more simply: give people a choice, and trust them to decide for themselves.

Edited by Andrew Moore
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Guest Chris Sweeney

Derek is supposing a world where internet teaching replaces face to face teaching. It is a dsytopian world he suggests, and one perhaps egged on by the introduction of teaching assistants who already seem to be being asked to undertake the work of qualified teachers and learning mentors for a lot less pay!

I seem to remember an Asimov story where teaching was done by computers. I must try and find it again and see how he saw it back in the sixties or seventies. I would imagine as a positive advance. I agree with Andrew that the internet and other communication technology has opened up communications and added another layer to social interaction. I cannot see it replacing face to face teaching; I do see it being used as a supplement to it though; with great potential, and where the learning that needs delivering is appropriate, an extremely useful tool indeed, with life-opening potential.

After all, the Open university is distance learning with very little, if any face to face interaction, Derek and it has shown that education can be delivered very well indeed without face to face interaction and social intercourse and that the education delivered by it is life enhancing rather than limiting. Nor has it started a trend of all the other universities being forced to convert to distance learning to save cash! I cannot see the danger - yet!

You are never going to be able to replace face to face education for children, though. Children can learn a great deal through electronic interaction, and as Andrew points out; they are already used to socialising through it. But that is supplementing and even expanding their face to face socialising, not replacing it completely. Internet teaching will only ever be able to do that; it can never replace face to face teaching because so much of what a child needs to learn is too complex for solely mechanical delivery - but it can supplement their education, and imo has the potential to actually expand it.

Sadly, as Andrew also points out, it is not likely to happen properly in the foreseeable future.

Edited by Chris Sweeney
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After all, the Open university is distance learning with very little, if any face to face interaction

Not entirely true... ...at least when my wife did an OU degree in the 1970s and 1980s. It took her 9 years, starting as a student who had never taken a public examination in her life. What made the OU work for my wife was:

1. The high quality of the teaching materials: printed, radio, audiocassettes, TV broadcasts.

2. The excellent network of tutors who made regular contact with their students, mainly by telephone - one tutor being responsible for pastoral care and one being responsible for the module(s) being studied at the time.

3. Regular meetings with tutors and other students at the local tech college.

4. An annual one-week residential summer school at a UK university.

I don't thionk things have changed all that much since the 1980s.

The OU is researching online tuition with systems such as their own Lyceum package (the OU was well represented at last week's EUROCALL conference in Vienna), but the OU hesitates to make a new technology an integral element of a course until a substantial majority of students have access to it, e.g. videocassettes were not available when my wife was an OU student because VCRs were beyond the budget of most households at the time. It's a political thing, of course - no one should be excluded from access because of their lack of access to or experience with a new technology.

BTW, the UK E-University (UKEU) collapsed spectacularly in June this year...

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Guest Andrew Moore

The Asimov story, Chris, is The Fun They Had. I'll check the date but think it will be from before 1960. The lead character, a little girl called Margie, learns at home with a programmed robot "teacher" (uses punch cards...) Behind the fiction is a fear of a future where people learn at home, without social interaction. The title of the story refers to Margie's thoughts about how children, in what is the past to her, once learned together at schools.

I've met some people who favour this kind of socially isolated learning - and one sees it in some desktop applications, like Successmaker, that many schools favour. Even if these do what they claim to do, I think they are horribly solipsistic - especially when imposed on children with learning difficulties. On the other hand, many schools in my patch will not even allow pupils to use some messaging technologies, because "they will only use it to talk to other people" - that is, to do things that subvert the model of "learning", which is designed to support the teacher in controlling the release of his or her limited information.

I take it as read that the learner needs contact with a great variety of other learners, with mentors, with expert teachers and tutors. By using Internet technologies we can extend that massively - because the learner can contact people in other countries, or social and occupational roles, whom it would be impractical to bring into their school. This is especially relevant to people who live, as I do, far from the parts of Britain where government and business is concentrated. In the study of media and literature, it enables the learner to make contact with authors, broadcasters and film producers, for example. In the area of language learning, I have been able to gain support and guidance from several people who are, by any yardstick, global authorities. There was no way I could have done that otherwise.

Graham shows how the OU developed a sound model for distance learning - mixing the independent study with various kinds of support, and real world meetings. Before that, many people learned through correspondence courses. Digital education is therefore only the latest incarnation of this kind of autonomous and alternative learning. Perhaps it is less expensive than some other kinds of education - but that can be a merit, too, since it makes it affordable to a far wider group of learners than the elite system which some of us were fortunate enough to enjoy. I would endorse Graham's suggestion that things have not (or need not have) changed much since the 1980s in terms of how one can structure the learning.

The UK e-University deserved to collapse. It was set up by people who had no idea, no relevant experience and above all, who tried to dictate to the potential customers. The Netherlands Digischool, on the other hand, and the Fontys Professional University (e-education for teachers and health professionals in the Netherlands) are, I believe, very much alive and thriving. The UK experiment was a classic British example of the government handing over a large amount of cash to a bunch of supposed experts - when the real experts are working in or with schools (many of them in this forum and known to us in other ways).

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Guest Chris Sweeney

I hope I came across as positive about the OU, Graham. Friends who have done it have told me about the summer schools, regular contact with tutors and some meetings with tutors, although I understood their face to face meetings to be less than you suggest; apologies if they are more regular than I thought. The first thing I intend to do when I retire is another degree and I rather fancy the OU.

Thanks for the details of the story, Andrew, which is not at all as I recall it! Perhaps I meant a different story with a more positive slant? I know Asimov questioned technology, but don't recall him being that negative. Memory is a wonderful thing! I shall have to go and find it now.

I seem to agree with you about the potential for learning through technology. Andrew, even if I am not as clued up as you are about the possibilities. Suspicion and concern from educators in state education about teaching with IT is going to continue for as long as it is introduced and used in schools in what to me seems a rather the sad, piecemeal fashion.

Edited to add; through the wonders of the Internet I have just found the story (1951) and a fascinating discussion on how technology has been treated in film and fiction. It is wonderful how the internet offers such reservoirs of information and knowledge.

Edited by Chris Sweeney
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Andrew writes:

The UK e-University deserved to collapse. It was set up by people who had no idea, no relevant experience and above all, who tried to dictate to the potential customers. [...] The UK experiment was a classic British example of the government handing over a large amount of cash to a bunch of supposed experts - when the real experts are working in or with schools (many of them in this forum and known to us in other ways).

This sums it up perfectly. The starting point for UKEU was the VLE environment - a classic mistake.

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