‘Technology can never replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of great teachers is transformational’ – George Souros
I began this academic session as form tutor for Grade 5, which gave me the tremendous advantage of already knowing the students as I taught them math last year in Grade 4; otherwise I literally would not have seen them IRL. We welcomed 2 new students in the class – it was a unique challenge to make them feel comfortable and get to know their new buddies on the virtual platform. They are deprived of the normal sensory interactions – in the class, in the lunch hall, and playground – that nurtures bonding for a lifetime. A small activity I did for their peers to get to know them a little better – 2 truths and a lie. They expressed two truths and one lie about themselves and their peers had to guess which was the lie, thus gaining some insight into their likes and aspirations.
A key question as we started with online learning was – why should children attend online classes? Can’t they be home schooled? Parents could buy the relevant course textbooks and let them learn at home. There are 2 key aspects to learning – the content and the process. Parents (or other significant adults) can deliver content but may not be equipped to follow the process, especially the PYP pedagogy – which focuses on constructing knowledge through inquiry and collaboration. PYP teachers have to conform to certain minimum requirements in terms of certifications and training to ensure authenticity of the PYP is maintained.
In my digital classroom, as much as exploring content, students are thinking critically, collaborating (using some amazing online apps) and reflecting on their understanding (metacognition).
Some of my thoughts and experiences with online learning –
- A unique feature of online learning is the blend of synchronous and asynchronous learning. As compared to the physical classroom where the teacher and students are disconnected once school hours are over, in the digital classroom teachers and students are always connected. I am able to help students in real time – ensuring a timely and relevant feedback process.
- I have observed students behaving and reacting differently than they would in regular school. Even the diligent learners are missing the classroom environment and the physical connect with their peers and teachers and this definitely affects their learning. It thus becomes critical to maintain a balance between their social emotional health and the delivery of curriculum. Sharing some strategies that worked in my class –
- Using technology Interactive and engaging lessons – Quizizz, Wakelet, Peardeck, Nearpod and MS- Forms are some of the apps I have used effectively to replace worksheets and audio visual presentations. (Will share details of how I used these tools in another post)
- Small activities to let them express their feelings
- Sometimes just letting them express their feelings
- Sometimes using strategies for the same like this peardeck SEL template helps students express their feelings
- Emphasising the criticality of being principled towards their own learning – whether it is timely submission or doing their work independently. It’s like walking a tightrope – iron fist in a velvet glove, if you may!
- Connecting with students individually and asynchronously using the online platform– to check in on them or help them with their concerns.
- A balance of moving ahead with the curriculum and giving them the time and space to just be, just express themselves. Giving them the space and the time to just be – the way they could in school. I have started devoting one day week towards fun activities – this could be a structured and planned activity – flameless cooking, craft activities, virtual tours or an unstructured platform to share something unique they are doing to make quarantine life better, share some unique talent of theirs.
This learner profile attribute given by a student means so much to me because it captures the essence of what I strive to role model as a teacher – don’t be scared to make mistakes, reflect and learn from them, there is immense growth in this process. More than teaching them math or science, if I can inculcate this attribute in my students, I would consider myself a good teacher.