Achin Bhattacharyya pursued this dream to provide access to learning for primary and secondary school education in India. With the inclusion of all significant boards and outreach to urban and rural classes of the country at affordable price points, Notebook is an effort to provide access to effortless and efficient learning for school students.
Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
Without debate, the Pandemic has by far been the biggest catastrophe to affect human race in this century. It has paralysed the global economic juggernaut and left all of us soul-searching with the entire realisation of the futility of our material aspirations.
Education has been one of the most affected sectors and most of the schools around the world haven’t had the opportunity to open their gates to students for more than a year.
However, while schools were closed, schooling was on and not only the textbook, but the entire campus experience had to squeeze in to fit into laptop and smartphone screens.
However, lot of conventional norms had to be redefined and fresh blue-sky thinking is the need of the hour, as all aspects like pedagogy, the role of the educator, peer-to-peer learning and interaction, nature of activity-based learning, etc. has to be thought completely afresh.
In the process, the most obvious casualty has been the outdoor group activities that has always been a huge part of schooling. While the academics and assessments could be transported into digital equivalence, these activities were not as easy. Present circumstances have left all of us with very little choice in terms of outdoor group activities and thus the need of the hour is to reimagine the blending and resultant synergy between academics and extracurriculars.
Nature of activities need to be thought through so as to ensure that they can be performed in an indoor ambience, captured in a webcam and still be able to achieve the desired learning outcomes.
As far as extracurricular activities are concerned the remote learning environment also provides a unique opportunity in terms of hosting much larger events in areas like music, debates, quizzes, innovation challenges, thought sharing platforms etc. Once you remove the logistical challenges, you have the opportunity to distil events down to their basic essence – pure performance!
First and foremost, the pandemic has ensured that all of us have gotten used to events being hosted remotely. It offers the obvious logistical advantages in terms of saving a lot of commuting time and expense. Also, it helps students from all around the world to participate in these events. In that sense, the role of the pandemic in terms of its impact in creating a global community is almost like an oxymoron – a global adversity uniting a global community. On one hand, long stretches of lockdown and social distancing have made it difficult to even visit our next-door neighbour. On the other hand, it has help us zoom in and bring the whole world together.
During the pandemic we have hosted events like an international debate and an innovation challenge and have seen thousands of children from across the world representing their schools by participating in these events. Their enthusiastic participation also proves the utility of these events in order to keep our youngsters productively engaged.
The students may not get the opportunity to meet their friends at school and play soccer on the lush green school grounds, but they have made friends from around the world and peer to peer activity based learning has been really intense.
As stated earlier, the situation has helped distil events down to their core essence. In that, outdoor group activities are essentially a way to encourage and promote teamwork, adaptation, innovation, resourcefulness and the ability to look at your surroundings as an active participant in the teaching-learning process. If you look at the online events like debates, or innovation challenge – we created opportunities for students to collaborate, co-create, co-present while competing with other schools across the world, which they were unlikely to meet otherwise at a school fest on-ground.
In fact, this opportunity has now spilled across the line separating the academic from the extra-curricular. As teachers have grown more and more accustomed to the functions and features of online teaching platforms and tools, they have also innovated. Now, academic content delivery has also transformed into fun activities. Be it recreating science lab activities using kitchen supplies, or roleplaying as a tool to teach plays, online activities have encroached upon a region that was hitherto ruled by ‘chalk-and-talk.’ Pedagogy, in and of itself, has undergone a sea change. In fact, the way digital learning content has been integrated into the online classes is the perfect example of the living, breathing form that “Blended Learning” can take. Terms like ‘flipped classroom’ and ‘blended learning’ have been buzzwords in education for a while now, but the lockdown has now brought those from concepts, into reality.