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Abhishek Bagchi, Principal, RMPS International School, Ankleshwar, Gujarat: Need to engage students in lockdown

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Abhishek Bagchi

It is April 2020 and over 290 million students are out of school all over the world due to a virus outbreak. It all started in Wuhan, China and spread like a wildfire before you can realise. The Europe and USA neglected this deadly infection as they were overconfident of their medical ability. India, I must say got lucky due to late infections and also some precautionary steps like lockdown taken by our Government, comparatively witnessed lesser effect at the time I am writing this article.

But the schools went into a halt. Exams postponed, sessions failed to start and students stayed restricted at home facing serious mental disruptions. As a whole, just like many other industries, Education is hit badly. Incidentally, the educators all over the world never gave up. They refused to get bogged down and started their own battle of taking school into the homes of the students.

RMPS International School, one of the fastest growing schools in Gujarat, leads from the front. Having the opportunity of being the principal of that school and with enough exposure to technology in education for past 25 years, I and my team designed a framework what we called RMPS School-At- Home.

Before we designed the programme, we considered few valuable information. What are changes we need to address in related to the teachers’ mindset? What mindset change is required among our parents? What is the existing technology we have? What is the expertise level of our teachers? What is the technology available in our demography? What is the average or minimum bandwidth available to us and our parents? What kind of capacity building programme we need to implement with our teachers, students and parents before we start online teaching learning? How to modify the already designed curriculum and make it e-learning ready? How to collect the above information from parents and scaffold them to cope with the new system of learning? How to choose the right tool for online training that will optimise all the above asked questions? How to measure the success ratio of the programme designed? How to trap student engagement? How to record student performance? How to provide remedial to the less engaged learners using online resources?

So, as you can see, questions were many and we decided to design our RMPS School-At-Home only after we have done enough research. Therefore, the research was done, each and every stakeholder were communicated and interrogated. The data gathered is analysed and we came up with a robust yet simple design. After going through an extensive capacity building and survey, we launched our programme in three phases, Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3.

In Phase 1, we made scheduled circulation of engaging activities among our students using the most basic and popular mode of communication, the WhatsApp. This ensures touching 100% of our students digitally and providing them with enough material to work with on daily basis. We also launched a credit-earning and rewarding system along with this to encourage maximum participations.

In Phase 2, curriculum-based recorded lesson videos from our teachers are circulated among students also using WhatsApp. We also ensured an efficient synchronous teaching-learning as in this phase we developed our already existing Learning Management System platform, EDMODO.

In Phase 3, we started true synchronous teaching learning by using Google Meet. Due to our Google for Education partnership we integrated G-suite and took the video calls to a new level.

The next initiative is to trap the student’s engagement and performance in a dashboard and plan further steps.

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