Thursday, March 26, 2015

Online Teaching is like Learning a New Language

Online Teaching is Like Learning a New Language
Online Teaching is Like Learning a New Language
Is online teaching like learning a new language?
Do bilingual (or multilingual) teachers find it easier to switch from face-to-face to online teaching? 
For several weeks, I pondered these questions as I tarried at the intersection of two/three facets of my life -- online teaching, online course design and learning French (Français or Française?). The second question is a hypothesis I intend to investigate!

Le magazine de l'Alliance de Singapour
Le magazine de l'Alliance
 de Singapour 1993
[Back Story: When I was twelve or thirteen, I wanted to learn French, but was dissuaded by my then Form Teacher, who felt all of us should focus on our core subjects. I dutifully listened to her and live to regret this decision. When I started working, I went to the Alliance Français de Singapour and began learning French with a colleague. We stopped because work got in the way. I'm starting all over again -- to learn the language I'd long wanted to learn.]

Learning a new language involves embracing a new lexicon, new pronunciation, new way of writing, a new culture ... New is the word. Everything is strange and très difficile. But I won't give up because I'm motivated to attain some proficiency in it. It's a childhood dream; my heart is involved, not just my mind.The French language is beautiful. I may not understand French songs but I love listening to its sounds. I will persist despite the challenges. It just goes to show how in learning, we must appeal to students' hearts too -- emotions must be engaged, not just the mind.

Listening to my French teacher takes a lot of concentration from me. Although I'm less overwhelmed than I was in Day 1, I feel like an outsider and am the slowest student in the class. I speak French with diffidence; I don't know quite often how to conjugate verbs or articulate the 's' or 'e' sounds. When I grasp some of the words she is speaking, I feel relieved that I can nod my head and say "Oui!" If not, it's an "Encore, s'il vous plait?" most of the time. One day, it dawned on me that this must feel a bit like how first-time instructors of online teaching feel. Anxiety. Trepidation?

Akin to foreign language (FL) learning, there is much to deal with and more is at stake in online teaching than in FL learning. My musings -- Question 1:
How do we make it less challenging for new online instructors to negotiate a new culture with a new vocabulary? 
For me, I know I must immerse myself in a French speaking and writing environment more often.
Question 2:
How do we support new online instructors so that they have opportunities to be immersed more frequently in online learning environments? [What does this look like? E-mentoring?]

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