Introduction My wife is a teacher of Mathematics at the secondary school level in a reputed CBSE school (the name of the school is not mentioned here on her personal request) in a semi-urban location with fairly reliable internet penetration. Any further reference to her is made as "teacher". This entire article is based on the experience of only the Zoom app. My wife is still the chief co-ordinator for all teachers and their inputs. Hence, to that extent, the scope of this article is still very wide and updates can perhaps be provided when they switch over to other apps. The challenges and jobs of online teaching and learning of mathematics, based on her own experience and my observation of at least fifteen sessions are presented in this article.
The ChallengesThe challenges of getting the children to actively participate in learning and teaching sessions are centered around a) Managing the challenge of the unknown b) Not allowing students to be distracted c) Complaints of resources d) Addressing concerns of parents.
Managing the challenge of the unknown)Online teaching and learning has been a totally new challenge, the ramifications of which are being learned every day. It is indeed a challenge of the unknown. The teachers are not prepared, the students are not prepared and the set-up time is indeed a big high in the beginning. But the challenges are now opportunities. The challenges have been converted into joys, some details of which will be explained in the later paragraphs. Of course, the school is now planning the switch over to some other apps as well. Details of such apps can be found in this resource Top Ten Online Learning Apps In India and the apps mentioned therein are reportedly used by many nearby schools as well.
Not allowing students to be distracted Students of Class VI to Class IX are always a playful lot. They would often play around and two students living close-by in neighbouring houses would be playing pranks on each other. The teacher will call for attention and warn the parents in the background. The students are often counselled by the teacher to take things seriously. Since mathematics is one subject that has to be demonstrated, the teacher also follows up each session with detailed notes and this is sent to the email of each student. The students are allowed to ask any number of doubts and over a period of time, each and every student is now very serious.
Complaints of resources This is a major concern. However, the school has been pro-active in finding out solutions. The son of one worker, now working in the manufacturing plant of the company, based in Oman, has been given admission for this academic year. The child will be back in India along with his father when the International flights resume. Life has to go on. The child is part of the online teaching of the school. The smartphone of the student was not working properly. The school arranged for an executive to give his smartphone to the child. The experience has been thrilling. The child is also taught through special classes and the supplementary teaching is done through email lessons as well.
Addressing concerns of parents Many parents are workmen in the giant auto-component company that supports the school in every way. There are concerns about parents who are farmers. The teacher has been able to communicate with each one of them and involve them through video calls to their smartphones. Fortunately, most parents have smartphones or get the help of their neighbours.
Over a period of time, the nitty-gritty of properly conducting online sessions will become clearer to all. The cluster of several CBSE schools is also organizing online meetings for the sharing of experiences. Yes, the internet connectivity is also problematic at times. Still, the school and the teacher have made it possible.
The joys of online learning These can be classified into a) Making sense of the new normal b) Enabling involvement of all stake-holders c) The thrilling experience of the students d) Exploration of new knowledge.
Making sense of the new normal Everyone is worried about the virus. People have understood that it is going to be around for another eighteen months. Online teaching and learning are now part of the new normal and hence everyone is getting adjusted to new realities. This includes parents who are illiterate but have big dreams for their children. For them, the word "computers" means big technology. Today, when the teacher patiently explains to them the ways in which the new normal can change their lives for the better, they are naturally exited and are actively involved. Each and every teacher has adjusted to the new normal. The school itself is not expected to open till late August 2020.
Enabling involvement of all stake-holders The local BSNL office is the centre of all attraction. It bites when their own children are involved. The normally sluggish officials are now active around the corner. The BSNL package is very generous. Many parents are now planning to switch over to the latest computers and banks are happily giving loans on demand. Every single stakeholder is happy, In fact, the district collector is keeping a close watch and is happy that the children are always kept indoors!!
The thrilling experience of the students The teacher is the chief coordinator. She has to answer the queries of all students. The teacher herself has learned so many lessons from my son, an IT wizard. The students have now shrugged off all their anxieties. For them, every session is a learning experience. The teacher uses the carrot and sticks approach. Every birthday is celebrated online and those who live nearby get together to enjoy the fun. The posting of the videos is online and all the teachers wish the birthday boy or girl. The teacher's phone never stops ringing. The school itself is planning to switch over to another app from Microsoft. All initial anxieties and fears of students is now history. Secondary school children in the school are very much involved in the learning process.
Exploration of new knowledge The teacher referred to here is in close touch with other IT experts. One or two students of Class XII are also giving useful suggestions. When the transition to the new app takes place, there is a big training session being planned with an expert from Chennai. The exploration of new knowledge is a big plus. For instance, even UKG children are part of this learning process. One UKG child has been observing how her sixth standard brother is attending the online class. This experience was shared by the child with all students. For such a small child, the sharing experience was itself so good. In the process of learning, any extra bit of knowledge is always useful such as on how to conduct an online learning session.
The day is not far off when the school will improve its IT infrastructure and the auto-component organization (a TVS group) is expected to chip in and provide all support. Online teaching and learning, particularly in mathematics, has never been so exciting as it is now, for the teacher. At least 45% of the syllabus is expected to be completed by the time the school starts, with massive restrictions and rules, in late August 2020.
Conclusion Online teaching and learning has become a new normal. The personal experience of the teacher and my own observations have been shared in this article. Every single day, a new challenge crops up. But the active involvement of all teachers is a big plus. More so, in a semi-urban location. I will provide updates on the new learning experiences with the new apps, as and when the school goes in for learning in that manner.
The author has very nicely brought out the challenges of online education and how to deal with them as on today in our country.
It is not that online education was not there before this virus situation. It was present there but it was limited to mainly the working class which used it to increase their skill and proficiency levels. The present compulsion has arisen because of the virus threat that is forcing us to go for online mode of education in a big way and it is imperative that we have to gear up for that quickly. Most of the institutions are now taking this very seriously and upgrading their facilities in the school or even in the house of the teacher itself so that he can seamlessly deliver the lectures to the students and give them homework remotely and check it and do the assessment. So, things are going to change in a big way and as there is no alternative, teachers have to prepare themselves in this regard and if required use some good application platforms which are tailor-made for these purposes.
On the other hand, the students and parents also have to come out of their old mind frame in which once the student went to the school the parents forgot about him. Here in this new situation, parents also have to be alert and see that the children do not get bored or distracted from this monotonous mode of education which is suddenly imposed on them under the big compulsion.
Surely the challenges of online teaching and learning are many but the joys are less. Online education being new, not every home has a computer or laptop and whoever has the smartphones are having personal works on it. I came across many parents who left the jobs to take care of the online learning of the child. Many teachers who are not comfortable with online teaching in the past could not make it presentable and many schools had to opt for tutors for special online classes.