I was talking to a colleague the other day and we were both lamenting about the inability to place a comforting hand on a young learner’s shoulder at the moment and how this is negatively impacting her work.
My colleague works with children with different abilities and is not permitted to visit children at the moment because of all the current restrictions, so all learning units are being held virtually.
My colleague was saying that she sometimes feels like a clown sitting in front of her computer, waving frantically as she put it, trying to keep the attention of a child with different abilities. Maintaining the attention of any young learner is already a difficult task and trying to keep the attention of a child with different abilities only adds to that already difficult task.
We talked about her mission of trying to keep a child engaged and in a chair seated in front of a computer for at least thirty minutes. That alone is difficult to say the least and combined with the fact that she only has the same tools available as from her physical meetings with the child makes it all the more challenging. She says these facts have turned her job an almost insurmountable feat. I don’t teach children with different abilities so all I could do was lend a sympathetic ear.
However I was able to share some positive experiences that I have had using video conferencing technology. In my one on one adult language courses I have noticed that some learners are less distracted and watch my face more. They are immediately alerted when I look away from the camera and they tend to notice even a subtle change in my facial expression. Even learners that are usually shy in live physical classes alert me to even the subtlest change to my facial expression.
Is something wrong? What are you looking for? Can you adjust the mic?„How do you say“?
All of these questions come from students that would never ask ; „Could you speak up a bit?“ „Can you go over that again?“ in a live course.
The quality of the learner’s own lexical choices also seem to have improved, for lack of a better term, when using video conferencing tech. They strive to be more concise. They know that body language isn’t as effective when one’s not in the same room. Some really are conscious of loss of body language as a form of communication and an attempt is made to make up for this lack, mostly be compensating with verbal communication.
For language trainers it can be a very rewarding experience watching one’s course participants fall back on the verbal skills that you have trained together. Clarity is achieved chiefly with the use of words; synonyms, antonyms, paraphrasing, etc.. The crutch of body language that some learners tend to lean on is removed.
I’m not suggesting that one on one courses be replaced by virtual meeting but I think it’s worth using the tool to augment courses, especially one on one courses. I have been a strong advocate of augmenting courses with phones calls for years but that’s another story.