There was a time in India where children were punished for using mobile phones at school but after the Covid19 pandemic definitely a revolution has happened in the education system in India. No matter how much you love your chosen curriculum, understand that it was meant to be delivered in person and not through a Wi-Fi connection. Teachers everywhere seem to be working twice as hard and feeling perpetually overwhelmed and dissatisfied. Students are also feeling stressed out and disconnected—we’re all carrying an intense emotional workload. The digital classroom has put parents, teachers and children under a lot of stress recently. There are many schools in rural areas that do not have access to reach their students through the online medium, due to technological difficulties. Like teaching, shopping, work, communication etc has become digital. On the flip side, there are many students and teachers who do not have much knowledge when it comes to digital classrooms. In India, during the pandemic there have been many instances of cybercrime cases, faced by both students and teachers like online classes disrupted by hackers. Sexual harassment has also taken place in the absence of awareness about digital classroom ethics for both teachers and students.
Priya Venugopal, who has a COETAIL ( The Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy ), Masters from SUNY Buffalo and is a Google Certified Educator, has 24 years of experience in the field of education and has learnt a lot by working as a Technology Educator at The American International School of Chennai. Priya says, “The Pandemic has been a game changer. Being somebody who sees a positive in every negative incident that happens in life, I think this pandemic has taught us so much more about life which we would not have learned otherwise. Until the pandemic happened parents weren’t aware of what the teachers taught their children inside the classroom. They blindly trusted us and sent them to school. Because of a pandemic, we are all like actors performing on an open stage. We have to continue doing our job and we know that the parents are watching us which means that there is extra pressure on us.”
She adds, “I think every educator has realised that teaching in the classroom is a piece of cake compared to teaching from your house. Teachers had to learn overnight how to teach a class virtually. No university had prepared us for this scenario. Teachers have been working day and night in ensuring that their students receive the best quality of education. It’s not been easy. I applaud each and every teacher for having done an amazing job.”
Importance of ‘Digital literacy’
“The face of education is going to change; the pandemic is just the beginning. I never ever envisioned never having a board exam. Children are not going to college, there’s so much debate happening. The need for digital literacy in the classroom has become so important and we have to ensure and understand that individuals are now responsible for how they use technology to interact with the world around them,” shares Priya.
“The latest news that is going viral is Madhan who has been booked for his abusive content targeting teenagers through his YouTube channels, in Dharmapuri. So, whatever you do online you are going to be watched and this is why Madhan is a perfect example right now. So, teachers during online classes bring in the event that happened and are creating the awareness among children that what they’re doing online is being watched, recorded and one cannot escape. That is what a digital footprint is”, she adds.
She says, “I strongly believe that just like how we teach reading, writing, maths and science teachers should teach digital literacy in the same way. It’s not about programming, computer typing skills or coding. Digital literacy is a totally different component altogether and that is why I have started these workshops. I want to reach out to the local schools to create awareness about digital literacy.”
She adds, “There are so many factors about digital literacy. It teaches effective communication with teachers about internet safety, functional skills, creativity, critical thinking, and evaluation, cultural and social understanding about how to behave in an online class.”
Free tech tools and sites for virtual learning
She says, “When the school closure is inevitable what can we do to make sure that our students don’t miss out on anything. We had to make sure that our lesson plans are in place and the resources are available to us so that we can use them effectively. There are a few technology tools that will help you understand how children can learn. Jam board is one such that is created using Google accounts for a quick assessment with the students and is primarily for middle/high school teachers.”
Know your student better!
“We have all the specialist teachers for subjects like music, art, and mindfulness so all these teachers set up their classes and they share the link on the document so that the child can attend the class at a particular time. It’s important that you always acknowledge your student during the class. Before school begins it’s also very important for a teacher to know what device the students are using. Make sure that all the children have some form of email accounts to access information. Some children might just have a smartphone they could participate in, but cannot do anything else, so be mindful of what kind of hardware your student has,” says Priya.
She adds, “We have synchronous classes and asynchronous classes at our school. In synchronous classes, the teacher is present with the child when she’s doing the lesson. They have a morning meeting link where all the children sign in at 8.30 am and meet the teacher and they go according to the schedule of the day. Whenever the classes are scheduled the child attends the class at that particular time and at other times they are free to finish their task work assigned by teachers.”
Cyber safety for children
“Teachers have to teach cyber safety to children and it should become a mandatory lesson soon. All the sexual assault and sexual abuse happening online, imagine where will the children go? Just like how you teach Good touch and Bad touch in person to the children we should also need to teach them how to identify their safety online and what to say, what not to say, you have to teach students about online safety”, she adds.
Priya states, “How can you keep your learners motivated and engaged while being remote? Make the class interesting by making it interactive. Ensure that you have differentiated activities for all students. When you do your planning, have some activities they can engage in by asking questions. Whatever the given syllabus is at the end of the day, how you make the learning part interesting is what matters.”
Feedback from your students
“This is super important, having feedback from your students on how the lesson went. Make sure that you get the right feedback from the students either through a survey or through comment and ask them for their opinions and it is so important that you have a connection with the child,” she adds. make sure that you not only engage students, but also promote feelings of inclusion and belonging, both of which are so central to social and emotional learning and a positive classroom climate.
She says, “You have to monitor student progress throughout the day. Make sure that you’re seeing how your children are doing every day in class that your goals for your students are very specific. Become a creative teacher and do something creative and interesting.”
flipgrid.com website has been created for virtual learning where teachers can ask questions and the students will have a recorded response. Also, teachers can leave a comment on the response and create a discussion board.
Screencastify.com website is a free Chrome extension that “lives” in your browser where educators can conduct small sessions and screen record the session. Screencastify.com makes it easy to record, edit, and share videos on your computer screen. Recordings can easily be shared via email, embedding code, YouTube, Google Classroom, and more. Using a free sign-in account users can create up to 50 videos per month (10 minutes duration).
Kahoot.it is a game-based learning platform that makes it easy to create, share and play learning games or trivia quizzes in minutes and it makes online classrooms more interesting.
-By Vinitha Venkatesha