The unprecedented impacts of lockdown are not only limited to academic institutions but teachers and students as well. It has been reported by The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) that around 1.3 billion learners have not been able to attend schools or university and this number is growing day by day. However, in an endeavour to minimize the impact of lockdown induced disruptions without compromising the safety of students for Covid-19, teachers are facilitating academic and learning activities of students (be it classroom teaching, participation in quizzes and other activities) in our best capacity.
As educators, there are several skills like pedagogy, cognition, assessments, communication skills, analytical, logical reasoning and interpersonal skills etc., that we need to be mindful of. We may believe we already know a lot on these topics, so why is it important to learn more. Irrespective of whether we are beginners or experienced, irrespective of the subject we teach, these skills will help any educator in his or her profession. We maybe the best when it comes to subject knowledge, but if we lack in any of the skills mentioned above, we will fall short of being an effective teacher. Upgrading ourselves is nothing but learning new skills. I am sure as an educator it can be difficult to upgrade time to time to learn new skills. But there are several online courses and certification that are available these days which we can easily include in our everyday or weekend schedule. We would probably need to allocate some time for courses of such nature, but when compared to the value it adds over the years, the time requirement is minuscule. Being a lifelong learner is a value we try imbibing in all our students. Do we need to ask ourselves that “is it not the time we too become the learners we want our students to be”? As Dr A. P. J. Kalam famously said, “Learning gives creativity, creativity leads to thinking, thinking provides knowledge, and knowledge makes you great.” It is time for all of us to aim at becoming great at our professions.
The lockdown has presented a very good opportunity to academic institutions and a chance to not only use tech-savvy teaching methods using technological tools but interactively engage students to encourage scholarly exercises in the virtual world. Now almost all academic institutions like schools, colleges and coaching study centres are adapting to alternative pedagogy to engage students remotely and to continue the teaching and learning process.
The Difference in Old and New Teaching
The lockdown-induced pedagogics has challenged the contours of old-style teaching and learning methods. Undoubtedly, in the crisis scenario, educators don’t have the luxury of imparting “ideal” teaching environment. Pandemic pedagogy has stressed on flexibility, leading a “virtual reality” of school rooms without negotiating excellence. Different technical solutions adopted by the teachers include Zoom, Google meet, Webex and Skype. These platforms have helped teachers and students to interact together in a virtual environment. Hence, digital learning is a boom. It focuses on generating an e-learning model promoting digital classrooms for today and near-future where one teaches thousands, to overcome the problems like shortage of books, schools, good teachers. In nutshell, it says that one must “rise from the physical classroom and promote digital classrooms”.
Challenges faced by Teachers and Students during Lockdown
Life after lockdown will see all kind of changes in life including learning and teaching methods. As students of below the age of 10 who cannot properly handle the mobiles and laptops for them, parents have to sit down with students and note down their work. Somehow it is not good for them and also students eyes are also at risk as they have to sit in front of the screen for hours.
The online learning session could be extremely stressful for the students, who appears on the screen during sessions as it leads to headaches, connectivity issues, less understanding at times, noise from external sources, an issue with retention/concentration and many other distractions. Similarly, teachers may also face issues with marking online attendance of students, unawareness regarding absenteeism of student, the inability of parents to help a child connect to the internet, connectivity issues etc. A normal scenario for the learning environment is a dual responsibility and learning can only bloom only when both the sender and receiver are in best circumstances to facilitate the process.
Post Lockdown Pedagogy
As now we have to live with Covid-19 and we cannot afford to comprise on “real teaching-learning environment” and we would have to adapt with certain measures which can promote learning in schools but with extra precautions.
Precautions are necessary to prevent the potential spread of Covid-19 in school settings. Some of the suggested measures include:
- One seat per student with 6 feet distance between two students.
- Reducing school timings to avoid student and teachers to stay long.
- Rotational web and off-web classes for students.
- Dividing the number of students into two batches and conducting classes in two shifts to ensure that all students don’t have to come at the same time.
- Allowing extra rest to teachers and students to promote good mental and physical health
- Making changes in the physical environment such as regular sanitisation of the school campus, regular sanitisation of seats, school gate, washrooms, playgrounds and frequently touched surfaces etc.
- Avoiding morning assemblies and gathering. Rather an online assembly in classrooms can be conducted.
- Doing temperature checks of staff, teachers and students in the morning and afternoon.
- Avoiding parent teaching meetings and outside visitors to come in schools
- Preparing guidelines for the new learning environment and sharing it with teachers and parents to get back the trust of being a safe campus.
- Training school staff and employees on social distancing will offer scope for more sanitation
- Tie up with health centres and preparedness of medical facilities in the medical room will be helpful.
- Sick students, teachers and other staff should not come to school
- Developing flexible attendance and sick leave policies that encourage students and staff to stay home when sick or when caring for sick family members.
- Plan for possible academic calendar changes, particularly concerning breaks and exams.
- Age-specific health education to students is must (pre-primary, primary, lower secondary and upper secondary).
While the damage to the sector is similar to the damage every sector across the world is facing, it is possible that with some careful planning, we might be able to limit the long-term consequences of this prolonged lockdown. As per WHO education can encourage students to become advocates for disease prevention and control at home, in school, and in their community by talking to others about how to prevent the spread of viruses. Maintaining safe school operations or reopening schools after a closure requires many considerations but, if done well, can promote public health. Adhering to “Interim Guidance for Covid-19 Prevention and Control in Schools” prepared by WHO can be useful for the spread of Covid-19.
Post-pandemic, a shift in mindset will be needed — to teach and learn.Today, even after a month of announcements and extensions, it is difficult to predict when schools will restart. Schooling is supposed to look after the emotional, social and behavioural health of children, which is diametrically opposite to social distancing. The technology may vary across schools and states but as educators, we have to look at the implications of these new learning processes for our learners. Going forward, in the new post-pandemic environment, what will be required is a huge shift in mindset — both social and emotional. A new approach is needed to teach in this altered online paradigm.
Educators are as significant as health workers since they are taking care of the psychological, emotional and social soundness of students at home. Although it is too soon to decide how the learning plight will be influenced by web-based education, it is extremely evident that future changes will guarantee that classroom exchanges are supplemented with novel innovative technology.