By Nikhat Azam
The onset of the pandemic has had a global impact and seen a paradigm shift in the education sector. It brought many unforeseen challenges and opportunities and also facilitated shifts in mindsets from educators, service providers, teachers and, most importantly, parents and children. Remote learning is now being heralded as the new normal. The pandemic saw schools turning towards technology in a big way. The lockdown stopped everything in its tracks except education. Schools unanimously said, “Learning must go on”. Remote learning has always been around, far longer than we can remember and though it has been a growing industry, it took an emergency to see a huge shift to remote learning, that too at an unprecedented pace.
While the debate on increased screen time rages on, what has helped in these uncertain times is the routine that the schools could establish. This has greatly contributed to providing children a sense of normalcy, which is very important for their emotional well-being.
There’s been a remarkable improvement in their engagement and learning. And, the reasons for the same are many.
Independence and self-reliance: Virtual learning has made children more independent and self-reliant. Kids as young as five years have understood the nuances of a digital platform. They can log in on their own, mute/un-mute themselves and navigate through various digital resources. This has built a remarkable sense of ownership in them.
Children with special needs (CWSN) and learning disabilities: Away from the scrutiny of peers, pressure of performance; they find it easier to participate without the fear of being judged. Children with severe special needs can blossom into confident individuals. Those who in a classroom situation refused to speak up and felt overpowered by their peers are now seen smiling and interacting with teachers online. They are now able to hold their own and present their understanding of concepts via online sessions. Autistic children who suffer in a classroom environment due to anxiety issues are comfortable learning from their home and seem to be learning better.
Shy children: Intrinsically shy children may find it easier to share their thoughts virtually. The chat option allows them to ask questions and clear their doubts directly with their teacher thus impacting their confidence and participation.
Teachers themselves are less distracted and no longer waste time trying to manage the class. There is better discipline. Irrespective of the class size, the children are not influenced by their peers. Because of the lack of peer pressure, disruptive behavior has reduced and the quality of teaching-learning has improved. Children can concentrate better and teachers are able to support better. The teacher can cater to children of all learning styles. Today’s kids are more visual learners and learn through a mix of all the different intelligences. They adapt better to a mix of visual, auditory, and activity-based learning and online learning caters to all these needs very well. The visually stimulating and interactive digital content is resulting in high engagement in the children. They look forward to the quizzes and polls which the digital platform offers. A lot of teaching resources are being shared with the children, so that they can review the material and refer to the resources as and when required. This reinforces their learning and the retention is better.
School is more than just academics. It is all about preparing children for life, developing the skill sets of the future, and developing a growth mindset. What better time to develop a growth mindset in children if not now? Success lies in adapting, evolving, and being fluid and not in standing still and letting the situation dictate its terms.
Technology is the language of tomorrow and children are learning to express themselves through this futuristic tool. While many sectors are still on pause and are waiting for normalcy to resume, education is still in the fast lane. Education delivery has seen an extraordinary transformation. The best time to change is in the time of upheaval and we have proved this right through quick adaptation to the new normal.
(The writer is Principal, Billabong High International School, Santacruz)