This Is How Technology Empowered Schools To Run Smoothly During Pandemic
This is a Guest Post by Ms. Nandini Ghatak, Academic Head-Middle School & Geography and Global Dimensions Facilitator, Aditya Birla World Academy.
13th of March, 2019 was the day, we attended school physically for the last time, little did we know at that time the impending havoc that COVID-19 would wreak on us. As educators, we had to adapt and innovate in haste, as from the very next week, the country went into lockdown and we had no option but to fully shift to an online, virtual mode of teaching. Our entire approach to teaching had to undergo a paradigm shift: faced with the challenges of an accelerated response to migrate to online teaching and learning. In that scenario and context, digital platforms and learning management systems played a key role in enabling teachers from primary to higher education to conduct both synchronous and asynchronous classes in an attempt to deliver meaningful content and keep students engaged.
The rise of digital learning:
There exist several arguments associated with digital learning: pedagogy, accessibility, affordability, flexibility, etc. are a few of the concerns raised in relation to this. It can be argued that digital learning has the potential of providing high-quality education, owing to its accessibility to students across varying social strata from schools in urban centers like South Mumbai to rural schools in the Sundarbans, West Bengal. Owing to the availability of affordable internet packs, accessing online education has become an indisputable possibility. Remote learning opportunities could be provided through digital content shared through platforms like Google Classroom, Microsoft Flipgrid and virtual classrooms conducted over a vast array of video conferencing sites like Zoom, Google Meet or Webex. Hence, it is undeniable that online modes of learning are easily accessible even in rural, remote areas owing to the seamless blend of affordable data and access to tech platforms.
Furthermore, it can definitely be a cheaper mode of education, if we consider the huge overall costs of institution-based learning. Another alluring aspect is the flexibility of online learning which grants learners greater control by allowing them to learn according to their own schedules. Does this effectively mean that the advancement in digital learning has eliminated all obstacles relating to location and financial resources to avail the best education? Can we argue that innovative technologies such as Artificial Learning (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and interactive educational software have the power to completely remodel the education system and revolutionize the role of educators?
A pedagogy-based, collaborative upskilling of teachers became paramount:
It has been largely acknowledged, that the quality of teaching is crucial to maximising the impact on learning. It has also been seen to have the most influence on student outcomes. However, most Professional Development (PD) programs conducted in isolation, lack context and teachers struggle to find clear and direct connections to their day-to-day classroom practice. Nonetheless, faced with the incredible challenge of online learning, upskilling teachers was imperative. Supporting teachers with short, meaningful courses on Ed-tech tools helped them gain the initial momentum. This also equipped them with the necessary basic knowledge, needed to ascertain the most effective methods to meet their students’ needs and capabilities, resulting in positive and increased engagement for the students. The utilization of digital tools was able to enhance the quality of education. Notable and most effective ones include use of interactive game-based platforms, simulations, podcasts to record and share content, screencasting tools to record and share feedback, etc.
Another approach that was successful, was to provide a space for teachers to work in learning communities; creating opportunities for them to engage collaboratively. By developing a variety of pedagogical frameworks and conceptual standards, teachers could initiate dialogue and engage in meaningful professional conversations with their colleagues. This supported teachers and helped them reflect on improving their own teaching practices leading to an optimum and productive outcome.
Hybrid and Blended Learning will prevail in a Post-Pandemic world
Technologies like AI have simplified the task of teachers by automating activities like grading and rendering feedback to students. Another innovative technology used by educational institutes is cloud computing which has facilitated the path to high-tech education for everyone. This access to information secured in remote cloud servers of educational platforms has made it possible for students to gather advanced knowledge hassle-free.
This digital transformation that we have experienced might have been achieved as a result of the reaction to the situation and to adjust to it. However, in the new normal, the application of technology has become fundamental to our lives as educators. The post-pandemic world will possibly see the rise of blended learning and hybrid classrooms, which will combine face-to-face lectures with technology-based asynchronous content. These types of learning environments have the capacity of augmenting the learning potential of students, helping to make learning engaging, convenient, and accessible to students. This helps to personalise and individualise the learning as students can learn at their own pace, skip concepts they are familiar with, going back and re-reading sections that they may find challenging. Online learning has the power to provide a massive opportunity, however, policymakers must look out for signs that this does not amplify the digital divide. A digital divide does not necessarily only mean access; the integration of technology must aim to overcome the barriers to digital transformation such as inertia and resistance.