One aspect of my Ipad that I love is the ease of using Skype or other video communication applications. There is something about video communication that I prefer over audio. I’ll be honest, I hate the telephone and “lose” my cell phone constantly; I also never listen to messages. Videos allow you to see facial expressions and feel connected. I recently tried to connect with a class member via Skype that did not work well due to technological difficulties. It was nice, though, to get to see her and communicate briefly. It lends a new level to what is oftentimes for me a disconnected experience.
This encounter got me thinking about education and learning using video conferencing. I have been dabbling with learning a foreign language for years, and since my wife’s mother, sister, and niece are fluent in Spanish, I decided in the last few years to try to learn Spanish. I have used programs, apps, videos, etc. to try to learn and it goes well for awhile, but life often gets in the way and I am not as consistent as I should be. I think the biggest problem is I don’t have time to speak with anyone and use what I am learning, so I don’t make the progress I think I should or could.
Recently I was reading a blog called the 4 Hour Work Week, and found this article titled 12 Rules for Learning Foreign Languages in Record Time. Suggestion #4 was to use Skype daily to practice your language skills using a web site called italki. italki is a website that links foreign language learners with foreign language teachers, tutors, and enthusiasts. While teachers and tutors charge a fee, you can talk for free with others who are also trying to learn a language, sort of like a video pen pal.
After reading the article and considering this week’s lesson, I logged onto to italki and set up an account. After looking at several instructors, out of hundreds, I chose one and signed up for a 30 minute introductory lesson, which will only cost me $4! After that it may cost between $11-$15 an hour, which I consider a pretty good deal. I now have a video lesson scheduled for Monday at 10 p.m. (the instructor while from Virginia lives in Brazil) and I am sort of pumped about it. I’ll have to admit that I was a little nervous, and things still may not go smoothly, but I am mostly nervous about my lack of skill and knowledge versus interacting with a stranger. I’ll update next week after I give it a try.
This type of learning environment is a way to further my goals, and those of many others. It doesn’t replace a live teacher but enhances the convenience and comfortability of scheduling a mutual time in the comfort of my own home. I can also see this working well even in high school classes as students could connect with other students who are learning the others’ language, such as a Spanish speaking class connecting with an English speaking class. While this doesn’t replace the classroom aspect of the course, it opens up new worlds and connections while positively motivating the students and ramps up the cool factor. At least I know I’m stoked!!