This Is How Technology Brings Cultures Together To Learn And Grow An interview with William Dyke, living and working in China
Welcome back to our “Teacher Feature Series,” where we chat with educators who work online across borders. Today, we have a very special guest with us. Please meet William Dyke, 51Talk’s Editing Team Leader, Course Products and Teaching Operations Center. Please read about his journey to 51Talk/HAWO American Academy, and find out what it’s like to create and edit curriculum for an edtech startup in China.
Will, please tell me about yourself and your background.
I grew up on the Seacoast of New Hampshire and completed my Bachelors of Arts in English cum laude from the University of New Hampshire. I decided to come to China to teach after graduating because I was interested in education (wrote senior thesis on education and labor market in America) and traveling (studied in Budapest, Hungary, for a semester in 2012).
After my initial work as a teacher I moved into a program management position where I helped primary school students in China travel to America for short-term study abroad programs. I decided to come to 51Talk so that I could combine my analytical background and professional experience to develop ESL course materials.
How long have you been working for 51Talk?
July of 2018 marks my two year anniversary at 51Talk. It’s been a great experience learning more about curriculum design and digital products.
Your job title at 51Talk is Editing Team Leader, Course Products & Teaching Operations Center. What do you do in this role and whom do you work with on a daily basis?
As Editing Team Leader I’m responsible for managing a team of about ten proofreaders, copyeditors, and admin personnel. We’re responsible for managing the backend system, managing QA, and editing all course material. We work with content development and graphic design teams. I report to Mr. Dai, our VP of Course Products and Teaching Operations Center.
What is one thing you love about your job at 51Talk?
I like many things about my job, but my favorite part is working with our editors to write new stories for reading and conversation lessons. I’m very proud of the CEJ world we’ve created and I believe it’s a strong competitive advantage for 51Talk in the market.
Can you walk us through a typical workday?
Normally, I arrive at the office around 9:00 am and review all the tasks and meetings I have that day. I then prioritize and execute these tasks, while helping my team as needed. Most of my work involves editing and monitoring course quality. I try to focus on building systems that my team can manage without my constant input, such as our feedback SOP, so that I don’t have to micromanage.
What is one thing you love about working in China?
I’m a bit of a language nerd, so learning Mandarin has been a great experience. Lately, I’ve been focused on improving my ability to read Chinese characters. Of course, this helps in my job where a lot of communication is done in Mandarin.
I’ve also really enjoyed making friends from China and around the world. The culture where I grew up is very different from Chinese culture. At times it’s a challenge to adapt and integrate, but I wouldn’t trade these experiences for the world.
Do you think online education is the future? Please elaborate.
Well, I believe the internet provides us with a lot of opportunities to improve as teachers and educational organizations. Obviously, 51Talk couldn’t exist without the ability to connect teachers with students over incredible distances.
In the coming years, I think that everyone in the industry should be thinking about how technology can be used to develop personalized learning systems. Things like AI have a big potential to monitor and improve student learning.
I’m wary of those who see the internet as the solution for everything. As of right now, the internet can’t develop as strong of a bond with students or help us to think critically. These are still critical skills.
Looking back at your work so far, what are you most proud of and why?
I’m really proud of our CEJ course materials. I think Timmy is very endearing as well as Cindy and Sam. When I first came onto 51Talk, I was a writer for one of the earliest versions of CEJ. This project has ballooned out, and now most of our staff in curriculum are working on various parts of this course.
Working with people around the world, where do you think you have the most significant impact and why?
Chinese students are ultimately the main beneficiaries of our work. The best feeling is watching a class that you helped to create, and seeing the students engaged, smiling, and practicing their English.
What have you learned about the differences in American and Chinese cultures so far on your journey?
America is a culture built around the individual whereas China has traditionally focused on the group. America and China had very different experiences in the 20th century, and this also affects the way both groups of people look at the world, generally speaking.
What two books have you read this year that had a critical impact on you?
The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker was helpful in improving my decision-making process. I recommend it to pretty much everyone, as it’s particularly useful in today’s information-laden world.
I also couldn’t put down The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google by Nicholas Carr. This book explores the history of major inventions and how they have impacted our world. It’s fascinating and helps to give you a broader perspective about how the internet is impacting our lives.
Can you share one interesting thing we don’t know about you?
I love getting outside and working up a sweat. In school, I loved playing lacrosse and soccer. I’m also a passionate snowboarder.
I also love blogging on my personal website – www.willdyke.com. I think blogging is a great way to practice thinking clearly and to learn more about the different parts of the world that you’re interested in.
Any future plans you’d like to share?
My plan is to keep working with my team to make awesome courses for teachers, students, and parents!