Monday, 11 April 2011


From Cleopatra's burnished throne to the leather and wood electric variety, the chair has many guises.

My favourite is the armchair, simply because it is the most comfortable.

I have long dreamt of an armchair I could take with me into the mountains or to the beach.

This is simply so that I may enjoy nature's bounty in comfort, rather than perched on a wet rock, or wedged in between a million pebbles.

This small wish was finally granted  this week when I chanced upon the elegant Flux chair.

Finally, a lightweight foldable armchair enabling me to sit down wherever I want.

My dream has come true.

Sure, it isn't actually an armchair armchair (please see how doggy is your dog to fully understand this comment), but it is more comfortable than cold pebbles and wet rock.

It is therefore an improvement.

I mention all this because during the week I have had to wrestle with another of life's innovations which also comes so close to being perfect but does not quite make it: the internet classroom.

I held a couple of lessons on Skype for logistical reasons, and, yet again, I find myself discomforted by something that should be so comfortable.

There are three main problems for me with current synchronous online classrooms.

The first is that there is always a tiny delay when people are speaking, which means you are forever talking over each other, or waiting clumsily for gaps of silence.

Secondly, certain paralingual aspects of communication are slightly eroded, even with a camera, so that you never get the whole picture from your learner, nor he from you.

Thirdly, you don't share the same context, but are in separate rooms, in separate buildings, in separate cities.

But, in some ways these are all advantages because it forces you to rely much more heavily on what you say and therefore makes words, both their pronunciation and meaning, the focus of the lesson.

At the same time, it does have the advantage of allowing you to see a shared whiteboard and swap documents.

So, yes, the internet classroom is not as comfortable as it should be.

It's not yet the holographic classroom, but it is better than phone lessons, or shouting.

And, best of all,  it does mean you can teach from the comfort of your armchair.


  1. Ha! It's very cool indeed, but it it comfy, Tony?
    happy sitting

  2. Er, comfier than a rock!