There is change and then there is rate of change. It is as if we are on a roller coaster ride with no stop button. Right now, the universe has pushed us to a corner where we have to keep up with the pace of change with newer coping mechanisms. The unprecedented uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic are testing our inner strength, determination, flexibility and the ability to adapt.
Accepting and adapting to change can be a Herculean task if it doesn’t happen from the heart. When the learning of children becomes non-negotiable and must continue, no matter what, it becomes easier to accept this challenge for the teachers and adapt accordingly.
Having completed almost 30 sessions for the online Mindspark Live Class (https://www.mindspark.in), certain questions arose for me as an educator: Am I practicing what I preach? Am I ready to make the change that will allow me to see the current situation as a huge opportunity? Am I pushing my boundaries to learn, adopt and adapt?
To be connected in a virtual classroom using cloud-based video conferencing platform can be quite daunting for students as well as the teacher. Right from acquiring digital devices, to getting high-speed internet and software for digital education, to submitting assignments online – both teachers and students have to be on their toes to learn and use newer skills.
An educator’s job has always been demanding as we are preparing children to step into the real life fifteen to twenty years hence in a world which we may not have envisaged. To quote from the National Education Policy 2020 – “The world is undergoing rapid changes in the knowledge landscape. With various dramatic scientific and technological advances, such as the rise of big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, many unskilled jobs worldwide may be taken over by machines, while the need for a skilled workforce, particularly involving mathematics, computer science, and data science, in conjunction with multidisciplinary abilities across the sciences, social sciences, and humanities, will be increasingly in greater demand.”
Thus, the question arises whether teachers are ready to change and adapt to the current scenario of online education. Before we decide upon the decision of adaptation, it is essential to understand the parameters of change.
The following graphic showcases the ‘Gradual Release of Responsibility Model’, which “…. emphasizes instruction that mentors students into becoming capable thinkers and learners when handling the tasks with which they have not yet developed expertise.” (Buehl, 2005)
The ideal scenario is that education should create responsible self-learners, induce metacognition skills and inculcate creativity. An intelligent composition of Guided Instruction and Focused Instruction can be worked out to achieve this. Mere imparting of knowledge has given way to helping students with skills such as analysis and synthesis. There is a huge scope of inducing these skills in online classes.
Easier to take smaller groups, with interventions which allows the teacher to move between ‘Teacher led learning’ to ‘independent learning’, online classes have a huge potential to be creative and allow a new kind of learning atmosphere.
Let us look at the advantages of online classes. To ensure a high level of engagement for students, an online platform can help in multiple ways. There are certain advantages and limitations of conducting classes on a meeting platform like Zoom, Google classroom, Cisco Webex, etc. In the past two months, the points in favour of this medium of learning which got highlighted for me are:
- Students are at home and in a comfort zone. The whole house is available for them to convert into a Maths Lab. For example, in one of the sessions where we were working on symmetry and rotational symmetry, they had a plethora of objects around them to use for the learning. These were then used to inculcate a deeper understanding of the concept.
- Unlike a classroom situation, on an online platform, it is easier to lead the children to the required level of understanding using the virtual means. For example, in a session where students are shown videos of three-dimensional shapes, using the net to open up the surfaces and sides of the shapes helps the students to visualize and arrive at the understanding of concepts like surface area and volume.
- In a session the teacher needs the students to observe, listen, visualize and think logically. Using multiple interventions like videos, simulations, problem-solving and games becomes easier on an online platform.
- The possibility of differentiated education gets better with online classes. Students can be taken into smaller groups with a facilitator and a co-facilitator and given tasks as per their learning needs.
- The Remediation details from Mindspark again helps the facilitator to ensure the right intervention for removing misconceptions and bridging learning gaps.
- The interactive modules on Introduction, Remedials, Enrichments and application-based games offer fantastic intervention in the sessions, which are thoroughly enjoyed by the students along with much needed learning outcomes as per Bloom’s Taxonomy (image attached below for reference).
The current situation of lockdown and inability to be physically present in a school is affecting students in many ways – not all of them in ways that are good for their growth. A certain level of empathy is the need of the hour. Making students feel comfortable and positively engaged will help them to deal with this extraordinary situation. In every session, the first few minutes are spent in discussing the current scenario and the children have been expressing their frustration at being unable to go to school. What I realised is that they just want someone to hear them out patiently. I am also finding it easier to get an idea as to which students are struggling and pay them some crucial attention to support them in their struggle.
Having said this, I would like to point out that there are certain limitations as well in online classes vis-a-vis real classrooms. What is significant here is that one cannot build on what is lacking and I would like to share with my fellow educators that we need to build a system with the resources, ideas and mediums which we have. An extended learning gap can cause irreversible setback in the learning levels of our students.
It is a quantum change with a quantum scope for the Mindspark Live Class, with huge possible potential in the future as well, combined with scalability. Let us continue to adapt to this new virtual world of education, and help students face this new reality by being their guides. Let us continue to reach out to students to create a world where they learn with understanding.