Virali Tanna, Teacher, Aditya Birla World Academy, Mumbai

Virali Tanna is an apprentice in the field of education. With a background in marketing and communications, she always had a passion for teaching. She loves conducting extensive research studies and studying the education system as well as including updated technologies while she shares her work. She is an avid learner and is working towards bringing a whirlwind change in the learning process for students.

 

“If the child is not learning the way you are teaching, then you must teach in the way the child learns”. These words by Rita Dunn are followed by teachers all around the world. Adapting and differentiation are two key concepts that work in every classroom. In 2019, as COVID-19 hit all parts of the world, schools and teachers across the nation started scrambling to provide online learning options for students. We all know that this journey has not been an easy one. Can teachers who have been teaching in a physical classroom setup provide an effective learning environment for all their students, irrespective of the access and need?

As a teacher, my first challenge was to decide whether I want to make my learning easier or engaging? Whichever way I pick, how effective is it going to be? The one certain thing is that there is no back seat in online education, every student is in the front row. Parents, educators and guardians need to have an open and honest conversation with their children about the other’s emotions. Here are some ways that schools can adapt to make online education easier. 

  1. Recognizing your students’ technological proficiency:

Most of us assume that Gen-Z is born a tech-wizard and will adapt impeccably to a remote learning situation. This isn’t true for every learner. Giving the learners an array of interactive online tools and allowing them to pick the ones they are more comfortable with instantly makes the content engaging and easier for them to grasp. They can be guided along the learning path using some tools that are mandatory (if necessary). 

  1. Creating Content:

What happens when we dump a lot of information on a person? It is never about how much content we teach, it is always about how we organise and present it. Our brain can take only so much at once.When we receive any information, it needs to ignore some and then process the rest. In an online set up, there are far more factors contributing to this process than there would have in a school. An educator needs to make sure her content is crisp, clear and attractive at the same time, with so many tools. To check on a student’s learning, various  asynchronous formative assessments strategies can be used.

3. Asynchronous learning with a help desk:

Getting students to attend live classes and participate in discussions is great, but it doesn’t work for all. Giving students more than one way to participate in discussions and complete their assignments will help them work independently and figure out what style of learning works best for them. This will also reduce the anxiety of not being able to participate in the class. The educators can be available online for certain hours in a day where students can log in and collaborate or help in any way they need. The idea is to develop an understanding amongst learners that they can independently work on their learning and still fall back on the help of a teacher if needed. 

  1. A fluid schedule:

Bonni Stachowiak writes, “The most important way I have found to engage learners during online sessions is to regularly change what they are doing.”

Teachers can decide the weekly goal of concepts to be covered along with the learners. There can be a lot of noise inside a learner’s brain and while studying at home, there can be a lot of noise in the surroundings too. To retain their attention in class, this is an easy way out, where teachers decide their daily tasks and goals to be achieved. Each day is a new and surprising day for the learners as the anticipation and surprise of not knowing what they may learn today keeps them on their toes. 

  1. Mixing up lessons:

Lesson plans should be dynamic and fresh so that they don’t seem mundane and repetitive. You can start the class with a full group discussion followed by a group/pair breakout session. You can ask the learners to share their understanding and then send them on a virtual scavenger hunt to make notes on research material shared with them while returning with their ideas. It’s also an effective method to empower them. This also allows teachers some time to carry on with their regular check-ins and checkups. Creating individual and task-based learning can help the learners with a real, relevant outcome and feel a sense of achievement too. 

  1. Encourage a sense of community:

It’s been almost two years since learners have been learning through a screen because of which social and emotional skills of students haven’t been nourished. Creating a sense of community and understanding through academics and non-academics is very important. A classic classroom technique that works a treat online is peer feedback. Entitling learners to review each other’s work helps them to build a better understanding of the concept and encourages a culture of sharing which can be valuable. Social functions such as commenting on content is an important aspect of communicating.

While making online education easier for students, it also makes me think about how we can make it easier for the parents who have been monitoring and guiding them at home. Even after two years of online teaching, I wonder if I should make my content easier or engaging? Is it enough or do students have more potential? With a return to normality insight, we need to accept that in the foreseeable future, education might embrace a hybrid model of in-class as well as online learning. With that said, let’s rise to the challenge! 

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