Innovations in education during lockdown

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Seema Handa

Renewed focus on remote classroom technologies and software upgrades, a surge in refresher trainings and Teacher orientation, and preparation for online classes helped in making a smooth transition says Seema Handa, MD, Group of EKLAVYA SCHOOLS in a conversation with Elets News Network (ENN).

These are trying times with the whole world coming to a near standstill due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Nations have unanimously come together to acknowledge the role played by the frontline warriors – doctors, nurses, paramedics, policemen, sanitary workers, NGOs, and food and essential service providers – who have sacrificed their own safety and comfort for the larger good of humanity;

who have exposed themselves to risk so that we are all safe at home. But there is another set of unsung heroes who have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to safeguard the vulnerable and most precious members of our community, our children. These Teachers are working equally hard, by stepping out of their comfort zone and embracing technology, so that their students are positively engaged and taken care of. Small children do not appreciate the reality of the current pandemic and are ill-equipped to deal with the present lockdown and its implications.

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These Teachers, too, are warriors in their own rights. They are safeguarding the entire future of our generations; ensuring that each concern is resolved, no matter how small, and the children emerge from this lockdown, stronger physically, mentally, emotionally and psychologically.

Also read: Leap Years Preschool Success story during lockdown

Best Innovative Measures

After the sudden curfew imposed in Punjab on 23 March, classes resumed online with hardly a gap at Eklavya and syllabus proceeded as per planning. This was only possible due to the young, enthusiastic and energetic Educators of Eklavya who are accustomed to ‘change’ and new challenges as part of daily routine. Technology has always been at the forefront of the teaching pedagogy at Eklavya and the move from physical classes to digital classes was seamless.

From early days of March we sensed the approaching changes and started preparing for them in advance. Renewed focus on remote classroom technologies and software upgrades, a surge in refresher trainings and Teacher orientation, and preparation for online classes helped in making a smooth transition. We moved quickly to establish communication and teaching online; through Skype to Google Classrooms, Google Meet, Grade Book to Whatsapp etc.

Challenge of Virtual Classes

Each disruption brings with it painful change, new learnings and ultimately growth and progress. At Eklavya the move to online classes was quick and smooth, but it was also a journey of delving deep into the digital world. Some educators were more comfortable with technology than others. Others were better equipped with devices and wi-fi connections than some. Strong cooperation, an open mindset, sharing of knowledge, and expertise carried along everybody on the journey.

The internet is a bottomless pit of vast resources and e-content.

Quickly we segregated the useful platforms, apps, educational content and resources required for effective online delivery. Sustained communication with students and parents ensured course correction wherever required. Whether it was slower speed of curriculum delivery, or lesser homework, or more revision of concepts; teachers were quick to respond not only to classroom needs but also individual requirements. Independent parental surveys and feedback kept us all engaged and involved in the teaching learning process.

The challenge of virtual classes lies in its remoteness and social disconnect. Curriculum and syllabus are only one part of Education, what is equally important is the human interaction and life skills absorbed during time in class and in the sports grounds. Understanding these limitations Eklavya responded with a structured module on Value and Skill based education, graded as per the age and class of the students. A Home Period was created at the beginning and end of the online classes where each day some value / life skill is highlighted and discussed and Teachers and students dwell and share experiences related to the value. Student involvement in age appropriate household chores is encouraged as an essential life skill and active support to parent and family.

In addition, we brought online our robust Mentorship program by involving parents and students with a Mentor who extended interaction beyond academics, and focussed on personal challenges and support required by individual students.

Awareness Programs for Parents and Students

Eklavya believes in strong and regular communication across all stakeholders. Educators are available to resolve all issues, big or small, of parents and students. They keep in touch with parents and caregivers through telecalling, email and whatsapp. Frequent posts on our social media platforms and city notice boards keep us connected to our parents and also the larger local community.

We invite parents to be as involved as they desire in the daily e-classes and in the scheduled activities of the students. Yet it is our endeavour to make the students independent and self-reliant.

Online ‘Home Visits’ and family interactions encourage the whole extended family to be familiar with the educator and actively participate in the academic journey of the student. Planned online.

Parent Teacher meetings keep the dialogue open as the teacher discusses the monthly progress – academic, social, emotional, psychological and spiritual.

Greater involvement of parents due to online and home based education has led to more stress and time pressure for the parents. Realising this Eklavya started conducting online monthly surveys to understand the efficacy of the online classes and to adjust and realign the methodology keeping in mind the limitations and needs of the students and the parents. This helped to upscale the efficiency of the Teachers substantially and also improved the Learning outcomes of the students. The first online assessment was a challenge and yet a validation of our pedagogy. It was a learning curve for the educators of Eklavya.

We initiated a slew of online Workshops and Surveys to upgrade the technology awareness of the students and parents, and to overcome the new challenges thrown up due to extended use of devices and concerns about cyber security. The objective was a better grasp of the features of various platforms, apps and softwares. In addition, health and daily exercise, and safety and sanitation were emphasised by adding a small module on safe practices and Yoga exercises for greater focus.

Inspiration and Motivation

Eklavya has used unique methodologies to keep students engaged from a ‘Household Chores Survey’ to ‘Home Task Fitness Champ’. These initiatives have helped to direct attention towards co curricular and cross curricular areas. Similarly Art Integration and CBE initiatives and Learning Outcome projects of CBSE have further strengthened the knowledge delivery process.

To sustain the motivation of both students and parents we at Eklavya conducted online individual Parent Teacher meetings. These helped to bring a human touch to the detached and remote environment of online classes, and keep the students and parents engaged and motivated.

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