Teaching a valuable lesson

03.11.20 11:57 AM Comment(s) By Jonathan Faurie

Education was always going to be one of the sectors of our society that was going to be impacted the most by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic changed the game, there was a massive movement towards online based teaching and technology. There is a reason why encyclopaedia companies went bankrupt.


What does the future of education hold and how will technology enable productivity?


Tectonic shifts

I recently read an article which pointed out that online education has created a tectonic shift in the market.


The article points out that, during the unprecedented time teachers, parents and teachers made the largest pivot worldwide from face to face learning to online classrooms. So, in a bid to ensure continuity Online education became the new normal.


2020 ushered in by disrupting every aspect of normal life and the major jolt was faced mostly by the education sector globally. The indefinite closure of schools, colleges and universities created a learning vacuum for students, but the crisis was well managed which resulted in a tectonic shift in our educational system from Offline teaching to Online teaching. During the unprecedented time teachers, parents and teachers made the largest pivot worldwide from face to face learning to online classrooms. So, in a bid to ensure continuity Online education became the new normal.


Ongoing debate

The article points out that there has been a significant and ongoing debate that Online learning is not as effective as face to face learning and Online teaching has created a digital divide in society. Technology is an incredibly important tool for educators which can help in affirming and advancing relationships between educators and students. Everybody had witnessed that the transition to online teaching in the early 2020 has to be done in emergency and Educational Institutions all over the world came with innovative ideas and shown to the world an incredible work by re-designing learning with a combination of online education and offline teaching to keep students engaged. The main motive was to give the best for students and for that purposefully designed online learning modules were added which gave new dimensions to students learning.


The Government of India is encouraging several e-learning projects under the National Mission on Education through ICT initiatives such as Swayam, Swayam-Prabha, National Digital Library, e-Yantra, Virtual Lab, that are helping students as well as teachers in up skilling as well as providing quality resources. On the other hand, these efforts are leading to creation of knowledge tools which encourage creativity and innovation among the young generation. The New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 proposes a revamping of existing system of education and integration of technology for enhancing teaching learning is an important aspect.


The article adds that since The Digital India Campaign is helping to transform the entire nation into a digitally empowered society we need an army of tech-enabled youngsters with emphasis given on critical thinking, creativity and stronger conceptual understanding will encourage students to become self-motivated learners. By fusing digital, human and humane skills, the new reality is preparing students for the future. Online teaching is considered as the better option but in a country as diverse as India the delivery of tech- driven education cannot cater to all sections of society. Online learning has its challenges –unequal access to devices and Internet connection, inadequate space at home to do online schooling and teachers lacking the training in delivering online classes, customized online content in short supply and the impact of continuous online exposure on health.


Accepted risks

The article pointed out that these realities must be acknowledged and the risks in shifting education online must be accepted. Students in richer households have better access to Internet and computers and are more digitally literate. At the same time, we have to accept the fact that education is not about technology but also about learning, interaction and developing soft skills and social capital which only schools can provide through In-Person teaching. A teacher in a classroom exerts great influence on the students although it is assumed to impart teaching equally to all pupils and each student may imbibe and fare differently. In-person teaching within a strict school regimen also instils in every child discipline and regularity which a home cannot. In tech mediated learning, the pace of learning is not determined by the teacher and in In-person teaching the teacher assumes the role of not only a facilitator but can also provide a great support to marginalized learners.



The article adds that a blend of offline and online teaching should be the path for the future. Our youngsters have immense calibre to strive for excellence and definitely they can build a strong self-reliant India by embracing the role of technology in shaping education.


Future focus

We cannot talk about digitising education without addressing the challenges that the current pandemic has presented. While online teaching is becoming more popular, replicating a classroom environment is important.


The article points out that the technological revolution has already been on, and every industry worldwide has been going through changes since the year 2010. In India, since 2014-15, especially after the government came up with the strategy of going digital, it has become imperative for all industries to be efficient and get comfortable with the digital economy. Adoption of technology was happening at its own decent pace because human beings take time to change and adapt to new things. So, the process was happening at its own pace and Covid created an unprecedented situation. Suddenly we were locked inside our houses, but the business had to go on and the only way to keep going was through networked platforms, especially businesses that could be transliterated or transformed into digital format began to be accelerated.


The education sector is where adaptation was happening already, which is not a new thing. The project that India started in 2000 can be highlighted as an example, which is tele-enabled learning. The idea was to enhance the quality of education and quality of teachers by the higher institutions so that education could reach the masses. Following the Covid outbreak, one of the impacts I feel is going to be the democratisation of education. Access to high-quality education has so far been limited to people who could get through the intense competition. So post-Covid, this one impact will be permanent in nature.


Necessary replication

The article adds that campus experience not only enhances the educational experience of the students, but also plays a major role in the teaching-learning process. Replicating this is necessary, but not easy.


If we focus on an MBA, flagship or PGP programme, they do require beyond the class human interaction. Meanwhile, in the process, we are learning about using technology in the right mix. A great deal of the classroom and human interaction can be replicated but cannot be replaced. The replication will require us to move the classroom experience, as well as require teachers to have backend channels where all kind of interactions can happen including student-to-student, student-to-teacher, and also student-to-associate.


The article adds that the second point that needs to be highlighted is that in a growing economy like India where education is not accessible to many and is supposed to grow with a digital revolution, we will require thousands of managers which even great institutions like the IIMs will not be able to train. That is why, we and many other good institutions are launching e-MBA programmes where working executives can attend the classes in the evening and augment their managerial skills.


Facing risk

The article points out that the shift towards online education will face its fair share of risks over the next five years. Premium institutions are coming up with different programmes for the upcoming sessions, and the mode of conduct will be hybrid. The selection process might be different because we do not intend to start with an unlimited number of people, but the potential of growth will not be limited by the hostels. Hence, our economy will not be hamstrung by the shortage of good and well-trained management institutions.


The pandemic has brought about a lot of changes due to which educational institutions are coming up with medium and long-term solutions allowing flexibility, recovery, and improvement of the education system which will be evident in the coming years.


Many priorities

In order for online teaching to be effective, certain priorities need to be taken into consideration.


The article points out that the Covid-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the education of children around the world. With the enforcement of strict social distancing measures and school closures in many countries, there has been rapid, widespread and potentially permanent changes to traditional modes of teaching and learning.


School closures – for any length of time – can have a profound impact on learning. As well as reducing instructional time, school closures may affect the educational performance of students. Economic productivity can also be negatively impacted by school closures, with parents and caregivers forced to balance work commitments with care for children. Similarly, educational inequities may be compounded by children not attending school, with those from economically disadvantaged families less likely to have the education levels and resources needed to bridge learning gaps.


While many countries within the OECD have reopened schools following strict lockdown periods at the onset of the pandemic, there are ongoing school closures in many parts of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. As a result, UNESCO has recommended the adoption of distance learning programs and online educational applications designed to reach students remotely.


The article adds that, to minimise educational disruption, countries around the world have swiftly shifted to online and remote learning to ensure sustainable, high quality and flexible teaching and learning. At the centre of many of these learning strategies is the use of technology.


Learning continuity

The article points out that, in many contexts, technology can provide learning continuity when students cannot be physically present in their classrooms. However, there are many barriers to successful remote and online learning driven by technology, including teacher preparedness, access to online resources and devices, and student support in the home. This is particularly relevant for disadvantaged students - such as children living in low- and middle-income countries – who are most at risk of experiencing learning losses over extended periods of time.


Supporting students during periods of remote learning is not just about technology; it is about teaching. In fact, best practice in the integration of technology and education is where pedagogy is at the forefront. While there are many low cost and scalable ‘off-the-shelf’ education solutions available, these may be unsuitable for the specific needs of education systems and negatively impact effective practice. For technology to be effective, teachers must first understand how to use it and then be involved in planning how it will fit with instructional needs.


The article adds that according to the recent findings from 48 countries in the OECD’s Teacher and Learning International Survey, only 60 per cent of teachers have received professional development in the use of internet and communication technology, while close to 20 per cent of teachers reported a high need for development in this area. These results suggest that many teachers around the world are ill-equipped to deal with the sudden shift in educational delivery as a result of COVID-19.


Urgent need

The article points out that there is an urgent need for professional learning initiatives to support teachers to better use technology and blended methods of teaching and learning. By building the capacity of teachers now, these methods can become a sustained part of practice that supports differentiated approaches to learning into the future.


With over 90 years’ experience, ACER understands the importance of recognising and supporting the integral role that teachers play in the learning outcomes of children. We work with partners to build the pedagogical capacity of teachers around the world, helping them acquire problem solving and analytical skills to support children to communicate more effectively, think creatively and work better with others. We know that, while technology may present new teaching methods, supporting the practice of teachers and providing professional learning opportunities in the facilitation and assessment of online and remote learning is needed for them to be successful.


The article adds that teachers, particularly those working with disadvantaged students or without extensive access to resources, need guidance to adapt curricula and assessment without depending on internet, devices, or a dedicated place to study. This requires support and ongoing training for staff at both a school and system level.


For those with access to appropriate technology, there are a number of possibilities for leveraging existing teacher practice and supporting students during school closures. However, regardless of the mode of delivery, teachers must be trained to support students and to ultimately encourage them to actively engage in the learning process.


In the short term, support for teachers can help to address the immediate educational needs of students who have been disadvantaged as a result of school closures. In the medium to long term, developing a clear and common understanding of the skills needed post COVID-19 will allow for the creation of indicators of student knowledge and capabilities, and ideas for teaching and learning these skills in the classroom, as well as remote learning settings. Understanding what is needed, what works, and for whom, also provides the basis for long-term monitoring of student achievement and progression.


The article points out that recognition of the work of teachers and their expertise can provide the support they need to rise up to meet the current challenges presented by the pandemic and enhance collaboration amongst their peers. Supporting collaborative types of professional learning between teachers and cultivating the creation of teacher networks can enable them to learn from each other and to provide leadership to their peers. These professional connections can provide teachers with the opportunity to share ideas, reflect on experiences, engage in rich discussions, give and receive feedback, and access support with remote learning and as students begin to return to school.


Acknowledging the influence that teachers have on student learning outcomes and focusing on teacher-led, rather than technological, solutions is critical to addressing school closures during COVID-19. Support and professional learning opportunities for teachers will help to reduce educational disruption for children in low- and middle-income countries and create new possibilities for teaching and learning in the future. 


The master becomes the student

At the core of any martial art is the fact that the master will eventually become the student. Teachers got schooled by COVID-19. The pandemic has continued to task educators with new challenges.


But they were up for the challenge and have learned new ways to teach.


The article pointed out that, like many in her profession, Raylene Boots initially had concerns returning to the classroom. A social studies teacher and gifted coordinator at Riverside High School, Boots believes the schools are doing everything they possibly can to keep them safe.


Everyone wears masks and practices social distancing as best they can.


"I'm a walker, I like to walk around my classroom, but I can't do that now because half my students are in the classroom and half are on the computer, so I need to stay in front of the computer. It's a challenge I have adapted to," Boots, who has been a teacher for 15 years, told Times Online.


Online difficulties

She noted there is more one-on-one interaction with students, but it is all on the screen and it can be difficult at times.


"They can only see my eyes so when I smile at them, I try to smile big," she said. "It is harder for me to learn faces when half their faces are covered.


"I really like the masks with their names on them," she said, adding, "Students are very quiet in class with their masks on."


Recently, Boots was able to arrange a group assignment that proved to be a positive experience because the students could actually "talk" to each other for the first time. They appreciated the opportunity to be in a group, particularly with students who attend on opposite days whom they have not seen in months.


Like Boots, David Braymer, trigonometry and statistics teacher at Lincoln High School, had to adjust how he teaches and communicates with students and their families.


In his classroom, there are three-sided plastic shields around each student's desk.


They both agreed that students have adapted fairly well to their new reality. Educators are always re-evaluating and looking for ways to improve their lessons.


"After teaching one way for 19 years, it is a challenge to do things differently, but the challenge has given me new energy," Braymer said. "I'm a pencil-and-paper guy and I like to have students work together to discuss the problems and find the solutions, but we can't do that now. That's a negative for me."


The new way is communicating numbers digitally, Braymer said, adding that he appreciates the patience from students and parents.


"I've had good feedback," he told Times Online.


This novel circumstance has inspired, motivated and forced Boots to rethink how she delivers instructions as well. In the past, she always examined what worked and what did not when craft her lessons. The coronavirus has changed a lot of things.


"It has made me think even more out of the box," Boots said. "For example, I have 40 globes that are bouncy and small enough to hold in your hand. How do I use those globes when I cannot have students touching things?


Recently, I introduced a unit about South Asia, and I could not pass around the spices for students to smell," she added. "All the things I have had to abandon have made me look for new things ... that will keep the students engaged and learning, even when they are at home."


Boots turned to technology to help by using such educational programs as PearDeck and Edpuzzle. PearDeck provides web-based animations and videos that include interactive questions and formative assessments. Edpuzzle is presented as a slide show with questions and students must provide the answers.


It is a time of changes. But teaching children to deal with a crisis that is beyond their control is not a bad thing. 

Jonathan Faurie

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