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By Ladiangti Rani
The rise of the pandemic has given way for learning to be imparted online. While we have heard of both the pros and cons of this ‘new normal’ of education from the students, the ones on the other side of the screen – the teachers – have not spoken too much about it.
For teachers it is not only about a stable internet connection but also about other things such as taking care of families, household chores and ensuring well-being of their family members as well. Amidst this, they have to ensure they do not compromise on learning for the students.
TNT- The Northeast Today got the opportunity to talk to a few teachers across the northeast to receive their perspective on this ‘new normal’ of education.
For the inputs, we would like to thank Tavinto K Sumi – a Teacher from Corner Stone School, Nagaland, Bharat Bhushan Singh Bisht – an Assistant Professor at Assam Downtown University, Zohmingmawii – a Lecturer from Mizoram University, N. Jaya Devi – Assistant Professor in Manipur College and a lecturer from Meghalaya who refused to be named.
We would also like to thank Nabam Kasmin Taring, who lent us a parent's perspective from Itanagar.
1. Many students have complained about the impersonal nature of online learning. What are the common issues that you face when you are taking online classes?
Students are inattentive. It is difficult frankly as many activities which happen offline, such as students expressing their opinion of the topic being covered, group activities and brief presentations, do not happen online. As of now we have not found an alternative but we try to do whatever is possible.
Many teachers have complained of inattentiveness, but I think it is normal for children. As an adult, even I find it difficult to be attentive for too long. The pandemic has changed the learning environment altogether. I do not force my students to pay attention for too long. If they get the basic gist of the lecture, at this point it is all that matters.
: It is student dependent. For some, they like having the comfort of their homes while learning. For others, it becomes a disadvantage because they do not have the attention span or sometimes even the bandwidth to listen to the class. We cannot really blame them for it.
2. What are the ways you go about resolving the passive listening tendencies of children?
There are many apps which we use at our school to make sure students do not login only for attendance. We also ask them to show their faces on video. But there is as much we can do because we cannot ensure everyone is on the same page.
You cannot monitor every student honestly. To avoid such challenges, we try to design some short classroom activities so that students can be engaged and their concentration can be maintained for a longer time. For instance, we give them a scenario and then ask them questions individually or randomly about their opinion on the scenario. We also take short student presentations sometimes.
: We look at conducting tests or exams so that the students become attentive. Frankly, there is not much we can do but maybe if teachers can inquire upon the learning once a while, that will keep the students on their toes. Although I am not sure if that is effective.
: The online class has been a burden for the parents and the children. We have allotted study rooms for the kids to attend their online classes, where they can peacefully listen to what is being taught. But this is not a privilege everyone has.
3. Technology is everywhere today and yet online learning seems difficult. What is a cause for this?
We understand the necessity of gadgets to facilitate learning processes. Today, even lower school students are handed cell phones. But there are many cases where parents usually hand over phone to their children and allow them to use it with no set time limit. Technology should be used to our advantage, but we must exercise precaution when we are dealing with young children.
The Indian education system has always been based on classroom education. In the current mode of classroom education, technology is sparsely used or not used at all. Because of the current pandemic situation, we were forced to move from classroom education to online education suddenly. Therefore, the transition is creating a wave of negativity in the minds of students as adaptability is difficult. More so, students from lower-middle-class families do not have proper access to technology due to which there is also a lack of confidence affecting the ability to learn.
My opinion on technology is that it is a blessing, especially right now during the pandemic when there was no other way of continuing learning. The motivation to learn is relative. But we do take cognizance that some students do not have the means to be at tandem with such kind of learning.
The students are already demotivated with online learning. Now they have become lazy and do not want to study anymore. Perhaps staying at home has made them lethargic.
(Edited by Anirban Paul)