by Dr Reyaz Ahmad Ganaie
World today is facing the biggest challenge, the Covid-19 pandemic. It has affected one and all. With no cure in place, precautionary measures are the only remedy. As the requisite lockdown became reality, with everything shut, educational institutions were also closed.
However, teachers across the globe acted responsibly. They took the lead to initiate the process of teaching via technology. Although it is not easy for students, teachers and parents alike as online learning and teaching from home require a different approach.
In recent years, Information Technology has turned out to be the most essential practices. Though technology has developed in many areas, it has not been introduced in every classroom. As we can see most of our students are well versed with the latest technology, this would create amazing opportunities –a system of benefit to both teachers and students.
Right now as we are confined to our homes, the relevant use of technology would make the teaching-learning process more effective. Using technology for teaching is beneficial. When technology is integrated into lessons, students are expected to be more interested in their subjects. Technology provides different opportunities to make the learning process interesting. For instance, delivering teaching through games, videos, taking students on virtual field trips and using other online learning resources. What is more important, technology can encourage active participation in the learning process. Contrary traditional classes face difficulties in doing so.
There are many benefits of online classes. Few have been summed up here:
Students interested in their subjects are expected to have better knowledge retention. Technology can help to encourage active participation in the classroom. Different forms of technology can be used to experiment with and decide what works best for students in terms of retaining their knowledge.
Everybody learns differently. Technology provides various opportunities for making learning more effective for everyone with different needs. For example, students can learn at their speed. Review difficult concepts or move ahead speedily. Technology can provide more opportunities for struggling or specially-abled students. Access to the Internet allows students to research extensively.
Students can practice collaboration skills by getting involved in different online activities. For instance, students working on different projects can collaborate with others by sharing documents on their virtual learning environments. Technology can encourage collaboration with students in the same classroom; same school and even with other classrooms around the world.
Learn useful skills
By using technology in the classroom, both teachers and students can develop skills effectively. Modern learning is about collaborating with others, solving complex problems, critical thinking, developing different forms of communication and leadership skills, and improving motivation and productivity. Technology can help to develop many practical skills, including creating presentations, learning to differentiate reliable and unreliable sources on the Internet, maintaining proper online etiquette, and writing emails. These are very important skills that can be developed in the classroom. When technology integration in the classroom is seamless and thoughtful, students not only become more engaged, they begin to take more control over their learning. Effective integration of technology changes classroom dynamics. Encourage student-centred project-based learning.
Benefits for teachers
Technology offers opportunities for teachers as well. There are innumerable online resources available to teachers, which helps them to improve teaching. Teachers can use different apps or trusted online resources to enhance the traditional ways of teaching and keep students engaged. Virtual lesson plans, grading software and online assessments can give them an edge. They can devote free time to other struggling students. Having virtual learning environments at home or schools enhances collaboration and knowledge sharing between teachers as well.
Challenges in virtual classes
There are several online platforms available to the students like Google classes, YouTube, what’s app, Zoom App. However, the school education department has issued an order asking the teachers to install Zoom App for online classes. Zoom is the leader in modern enterprise video communications. Easy cloud platform for video and audio conferencing, collaboration, chat, and webinars across mobile devices, desktops, telephones, and room systems. Although Zoom has exploded in popularity during the Coronavirus pandemic, it has also come under fire over security issues. Several countries have already stopped using it. Recently a report published by Bleeping Computer states that hackers are selling these Zoom accounts for less than a penny and in some cases, they are being given away for free. The report adds that the information about free Zoom accounts was first pointed out by Cyber Security Intelligence firm Cyble on April 1. However, despite these reports, there is no official confirmation of whether the teachers should stop the Zoom classes until the department will look for an alternative. Therefore the authorities should not take it for granted to compromise with the security and privacy issues of teachers and students. An alternative is a must.
Another problem is every student does not have access to the latest gadgets, a fact accepted by Dr Asgar Samoon, Secretary School Education Department. There is a speed issue as well. It seems the government of India is not serious about the education of our children despite the fact of making tall claims of engaging students through online classes through different online platforms to compensate for the academic losses. The academic session 2020-21 has already started in schools of Kashmir while as the session in Jammu division is likely to commence after the nationwide lockdown is lifted by the government.
The Supreme Court has already termed the ban on high-speed internet by the government as the violation of Article 14 (Right to Equality) Article 19 (freedom of Speech) and Article 21 (Right to Life) and accordingly a notice was sent to the government however the authorities are not only unmoved but in denial, mode to restore the 4G internet. Several petitions are already in the apex court regarding the issue and recently private school association has again approached the Supreme Court with a petition seeking the restoration of high-speed internet in the state. Despite all these challenges teachers are doing a commendable job with utmost dedication in imparting the quality education to the students and everyone is adapting to a new reality of the online teaching-learning process. Although teaching from home is a temporary arrangement on part of the education department to reach out to the students but the online classes may become a permanent feature of teaching in the future.
(The author has done a PhD from Pondicherry Central University. Ideas expressed are the author’s personal.)