Let’s say there is a student in China who wants to learn English on the weekends. He types “English Tutor Online” into the search bar and clicks “Enter.” He finds a service, connects with a tutor, and schedules their first session.
The tutor and the student will need to utilize similar or identical tools on their respective ends to maintain the connection and foster learning. Tutoring has gone from across the desk to around the world, so it should be a priority for tutors to choose the right technology for their lessons. Online tutors need to choose the right tool for the job and know when to use it.
Education, in general, has gone from “the one-size fits all model resulting in unprepared students to technology-enabled solutions customized for each student” (The State of Education Infographic). So, most tech savvy students who need help with homework or receive actual instruction might want bells and whistles, but what about those who only know the basics? There are lessons that only need the bare minimum. Believe it or not, there are people who still have flip phones and write in MS Word 93. Most tutoring sites utilize what is already available to the general consumer: Computer, internet connection, webcam, Shockwave, Flash player, whiteboard…beyond the basics, it is the tutor’s responsibility to choose the right tool for the job.
Like Eyal Eshed’s (the CEO of Speakingpal.com) advice about designing mobile apps in his CitizenTekk article, On Designing Mobile Education Apps, when developing a lesson for a tutoring session, there should be a purpose, and the technology should fit that purpose. Refer back to the student in China who has just started his lesson with a new tutor. The tutor attempted to teach the student how to ask for a taxi at a hotel’s front desk, but had difficulty illustrating the connection between the word ‘car’ and the concept of a car to the student. The tutor can use visual cues (with such tools as video, internet or whiteboard) to combine text and pictures to illustrate his point (Tutoring sites will most likely provide them, but there are sites that provide whiteboards for use on your own computer [Windows’s Digital Whiteboard ]); the whiteboard or video served a purpose. If the tutor wanted to incorporate a calculator in that lesson, it would serve no other purpose but to confuse the student. But what happens when the tutor does not have enough tools for the lesson?
The tutor’s next student needs help with Revit architecture software. Unless the student can see what the tutor is talking about by drawings on a whiteboard, the tutor will need to incorporate more technology into their lessons. Revit software is not a run-of-the-mill word processing program; it’s a little more involved than that. You can’t just open it up and be an expert at it. Revit software is
“specifically built for Building Information Modeling (BIM), empowering design and construction professionals to bring ideas from concept to construction with a coordinated and consistent model-based approach. Revit is a single application that includes features for architectural design, MEP and structural engineering, and construction.” -http://www.autodesk.com/
If the tutor does not have the software, how is that student supposed to learn from that particular tutor? As with any other program a student is trying to learn, to teach the aforementioned program it takes knowledge of its basics as well as its most complex features; you can’t do either/or without the program. The student would have better luck enrolling for a free trial or moving on to the next tutor who has the adequate tools for the job.
Online tutoring providers have taken advantage of technology to make their jobs easier and their services more available to students; the most effective tutor is the one who picks the right technology for the job and knows when to use it. As online tutors, you need to prepare your lesson and utilize the proper tool. As important as it is to choose the right tool for the job, it is equally important to know when it’s needed, or not needed. As a tutor, the most basic step to preparing for a lesson: prepare content and then see which technological tool will best serve it, not the other way around.