Friday, September 13, 2013

Distance learning? Remote learning?

In Jeremy Harmer's recent blog post reflecting on his observation of a class taking place in the Ceibal English (Ceibal en Ingl├ęs) project, he writes about the project using 'distance teachers who teach English remotely'

At Ceibal, we talked about this label and how the term remote teacher had been adopted instead and that we didn't think distance teacher was the appropriate term. From the time of piloting the term remote teacher has been used throughout the project internally. In the paper written by Dario Luis Banegas (2013), he briefly explains the teaching situation of Ceibal English in this way:
'Plan Ceibal seeks to demonstrate that lessons delivered by remote teachers (RTs) via videocon-ferencing with support from classroom teachers (CTs) with little command of English can facilitate successful learning outcomes in learners, including effectiveinteraction with the RT, CT and between learners.'

Why does the project prefer remote teacher (RT)? Well, Wikipedia describes distance learning as 'a mode of delivering education and instruction...to students who are not physically present in a traditional setting such as a classroom' and it 'provides access to learning when the source of information and the learners are separated by time and distance, or both.'

In the Ceibal English project, the students are physically present in a classroom. Additionally, although the RT is separated by distance from the students, they are with their regular teacher (the classroom teacher, or CT), whose role is crucial if successful learning to take place (this is not a transmission teaching model unlike the plasma teaching that took place in Ethiopia - but I'll save that for another blog post at another time). 

What is clear is that the Ceibal English system is all about team teaching, with the RT being the qualified and experienced English language teacher and the CT being the teacher who best knows the learners and who is responsible for classroom management and the language practice activities during the week. 

To be honest, the term remote teacher is not ideal either. If you search for remote teaching in Google, then you'll find examples of regular teaching being done in remote communities, such as this one from Western AustraliaHowever, the kind of teaching being done in the Ceibal English project is distinct from the teaching being done by what most educators assume to be distance education, so it is worth using a different term to distinguish it. 



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