-D. Ramkrishana Rao
Full blown Corona pandemic world over has resulted in an unprecedented situation of total lockdown and new awareness for maintaining social distancing. Under this situation, it is almost impossible to run educational institutions as they require large gathering of students, teachers & support staff. This inconvenience can be reduced to the minimum by adopting latest available technologies to reach learners through on-line web-based video conferencing tools and allow teachers and students interact face to face in a virtual environment.
A number of web based video conferencing apps are available that allow users free access to their basic features which are sufficient for school teachers to hold on line classes. Some of the popular apps are Zoom, Web Ex, Team Viewer, Google hangouts, MS Teams, Go to meeting etc. These platforms offer unlimited meetings for upto 100 participants along with features such as HD audios, videos, screen sharing, white boarding and break out rooms etc. In view of Corona Crisis Zoom has removed their earlier time restriction of 40 minutes and now permit longer meeting periods to schools free of cost.
Upskilling and upgrading faculty
The whole process of organizing virtual school or e-pathasala begins with the mind-set and capacity building of the teachers to become tech-savvy and learning pedagogy in the given situation. The challenge before the teachers is to be able to simulate interactive and engaging sessions with discussions, activities
and group-work in virtual classes creating fun and stress-free learning environment. Teachers must be told and trained to address first-generation online learners – who are trying to adopt new system – to reach out and provide emotional support to encourage, and reassure them, as it would be the new normal in future.
Seamless online learning
Since online learning is no short of a revolution in the field of education because of its usefulness, ease-of-use, popularity, anytime learning and any place learning. Academicians and educationists deem it as the New Normal for which we should be getting equipped. The schools prepare a time table for virtual school day and organize it continuously for five working days of the week. Students shall be joining from their homes with a simple android phone at the given time. Rest two days are left for personal interaction with the teachers as a part of “MICRO TEACHING”, which every student appreciates. Our experience of on-line classes by some of the teachers is generating a new enthusiasm for teaching and learning process. Some students, who are more tech-savvy, enjoy the role reversal of helping the teachers even.
To make the whole activity more responsible, interesting, creative and innovative, our teachers are to get trained not only to gather and collect the content from different sources but to present in a palatable way. This value addition improves the quality of the teacher further. Since learners are not used to long duration of screen time – which can lead to stress and fatigue – schools should add value by providing quite near normal learning experience. At primary level classes are interspersed with Art, Craft, Music, dance, fun, games and story narration sessions. At secondary level teachers bring in interesting facts about the topic on the day and organize on-the spot contest to keep children enthusiastically engaged which can also be acting as a feedback.
Collaborating with all stake holders
Organizing on line classes necessitates fairly good amount of back room planning by the school principal, subject heads, time table in-charge, I.T. administration and resource centre etc. Parents are also to be contacted and informed about the activity in the form of a circular or oral instruction for making the whole activity properly monitored. When we have proper rapport with parents, they also send feedback along with impressions and photos. In this process our well-wishers and alumni can also be involved. Best of the learning experiences are possible when we have proper understating, coordination and collaboration with all stake holders of the school.
Advantages of on-line learning
The biggest advantage of online classes is giving students an opportunity for self-paced learning through facility of recording lessons. They can revisit these lessons any number of times for self-learning. Research also suggests that students tend to learn more though on-line module as they learn at their own individual pace rather than at the pace of large group.
Cyber safety and creating a resource base
Governments have tried to provide fibre-net facility even to remote villages and far-flung tribal areas. Hence instructions are to be given to the parents to manage undisturbed space and good internet connectivity. School and students should be taking care of unauthorized persons’ entry into the system. The school administration shall also create a repository of these on-line resources to share and refer whenever required, as all the recordings become valuable resources, which also help teachers for self-evaluation and upgradation. All the recorded lessons are to be deposited at Pranta Kendra for scrutiny, observation and sharing the best with all the concerned.
Vidya Bharathi and Corona pandemic
Vidya Bharathi is a big national movement to summarily transform the present education system to make it more meaningful, purposeful and futuristic based on Bharateeya values, cultural, philosophical, psychological and sociological foundations concentrating on all round development of Child by following latest trends to become global player and competitor. In this process of global Pandemic Vidya Bharathi has to be using technology which can be the biggest saviour of us by providing a seamless learning experience and the best way forward for schools during this Corona crisis. Moreover, the uncertainty of reopening of schools (after near normalcy is restored) demands continuity of schooling at home and on line lessons.
To go digital and learning to be innovative
Our slow pace of technological change in academic institutions is quite lamentable. Now Vidya Bharathi has to see that digital literacy, skilling and reach as well as upgrading teachers capacities during these 3 months’ period is properly monitored with online training sessions. Many of the urban, rural and tribal schools are experimenting online teaching with a limited success and greater confidence. This global crisis has also given an opportunity to sharpen the skills of students in this unpredictable world for becoming more adaptable, creative and innovative. The deployment of 4G & 5G technology in education will greatly increase the integration potential of the so called Internet of Things (IOT) based applications including digital labs and smart class rooms along with an improvement in current teaching and learning experiences on a big scale. At pranta level one ICT cell to help in academic training activity perhaps becomes a necessity.
Teachers not simply critical consumers but also to be content creators
Our teachers have to acquire four 21st century skills viz. critical thinking, communicating, collaborating and creating. They should not simply be critical consumers of knowledge but also effective content creators. Subject content is freely available from innumerable sources including NCERT from its e-pathasala portal which contains 1886 audio lessons, more than 2000 videos, 696 e-books and 504 flip books. Government and MHRD portals like Swayam, Sakshat, Swayam Prabha, Virtual lab, Talk to teacher, Spoken tutorial, e-kalpa etc. provide a lot of content. But teacher should be wise and develop analytical, critical, lateral, dialectical and reflective thinking skills which require a programmed and systematic prasikshana.
In the process of digitalization encouraging the mind set of e-learning and on line teaching becomes a necessity. Hence concerted training programmes are to be arranged to all the stake holders who collaborate this priority activity. Establishing master trainers and resource persons becomes highly essential in this programme. Prasikshana vibhag should also prepare modules detailing micro level concepts. Swadhyaya materials and manuals are also to be prepared with the help of Vidwat Parishad. Training schedules are to be periodical to update skills to solve problems and meet all challenges from time to time.
Vidya Bharathi e-pathasala
Vidya Bharathi started preparing e-learning material since 2017 in a humble way, with Bhopal as its headquarters. There is a team working for it. Its content is to be updated and relooked by forming subject wise expert teams, to make it more user friendly with Bharateeya content and value base. The epathasala is in Hindi and it can be dubbed or restructured to meet the provincial or local needs if necessary. Ultimately our quality and content in e-pathasala is to be made acceptable to other schools beyond Vidya Bharathi purview for which we have to put our best efforts in consultation with experts and professionals in the field. There is much of an expectation from the society in this regard from us.
Only Way for future
In order to marginalize the digital divide, e-learning procedures are to be adopted without reducing the importance of teachers whose role can either be replaced or supplemented. Let us also see that our teachers are not outdated and be working for next generation with digitalization – mind-set, which would be the order of the day and without which credibility of the teacher also becomes a big question mark.
(Author has Retired Principal and National President of Vidya Bharati)