There are nightmares you wake up from, and there are nightmares you cannot wake up from, no matter how hard you pinch yourself. They are real. Mine is, my students are reluctant to digitalize themselves.
My big time argument is they can learn English even when they are on the toilet. It is a bit scatological, I know, but it was my very last chance after trying all possible perks.
Maybe thinking aloud about them will help clear some of this mess.
The most obvious that comes to mind is that we break all time and space boundaries. Anywhere you may have access to the internet, you can log on to your course and work on it. Drawbacks … there should not be… BUT there are.
The drawbacks do not come from the system itself but from the circumstances that surround the students. Circumstances are different in, let’s say, The USA, South Korea or Spain. The USA is just the all-time reference, South Koreans are nuts about technology and Spain… well, Spain is still different.
America is not yet fully digital – that is South Korea of all places. But America (I mean the U.S.) has fully embraced as a country the digital era. There might be some reluctant individuals who do not like the idea, but I guess most people who work with a computer are well updated in using the internet and know the basics about benefits, risks and what to do to avoid these. They all have their driver’s license, if you know what I mean.
South Korea is discarding a broadband technology in favour of the next one. Ironically, that discarded technology is being adopted – now – in the U.S. In south Korea a baby died of starvation and neglect because the parents were playing a video game about – raising a child:
A disturbingly telling symptom.
As I said, Spain is still different. Here in Spain, the average internet user has either been fighting for years in order to get decent bandwitdh at an affordable price, let alone wireless connection on portable devices. Those who jumped late onto the bandwagon, are still dazzled and confused. There has been a lack of formal technological education integrated in the standard curriculum among those who are, let’s say, above 30 years old. Jobs that exist in countries like my two other examples – or for that matter in countries like Germany or France – are not so technologically integrated in Spain. Companies are still too analogical.
An example: an education consultancy belonging to a group where there is a web programming company and it took them five years to have an up-and-running online teaching website. Appalling.
So this applies to my students as well. They are between 18 and 55. They are all supposed to have access to their intranet and are automatically assigned an email account. Recently one of my students came back to the course after being abroad for some weeks. He is forty-something.
Me: Hi, what have you done with your English these weeks?
Student: Hardly anything, some exercises on a grammar book I have at home.
Me: (trying to sound cheerful) which book is it?
Student: I can’t remember, It is blue outside.
Me: (Repressed sigh/grunt) have you tried our website as I told you?
Student: Actually I forgot all about it.
Me: By the way I remind you it is vital for you to sign up, for administration purposes. You have done it, have you?
Student: I don’t have an e-mail account. So when I reached that… I tried before leaving and then…
Me: You all have a corporate e-mail address…
Student: Do we? We do have this X thing…
Me: That’s it.
Student: (Surprised) Is it?
The conversation went on for a long time. This is an analogic student. He has an email account that he has been given for free at work. He has not even used it once. Luckily I do have a geek student whom I asked to help this other student. But this student should already know the basics. Right now it is like not knowing how to use the phone – or a mobile phone, of which he has two. Wait till he hears that he can use the course on his mobile’s screen!
Lesson learned: make sure your students have the basic digital skills before starting the first class.