COVID-19 To Fuel Next Wave Of Innovation For Education Sector

Technology is an integral part of this new reality, upending current educational practices, models and processes.

Close scrutiny will show that most 'crisis situations' are opportunities to either advance or stay where you are - Maxwell Maltz 

Coronavirus has radically transformed the world in a matter of months. Schools and businesses have moved to new ways of working, making the pandemic as life-changing as it is unprecedented. As an educator, it makes me wonder about the future of education and the sheer scale of the impact that coronavirus has had on the education sector. Online schooling has given us a glimpse of how education could change in the coming years. 

Technology is an integral part of this new reality, upending current educational practices, models, and processes. Digitization of education was already underway before the pandemic, but the crisis has accelerated the transformation. Perhaps, education is the only sector which holds the maximum potential for such a transformation. 

In India, teachers who were used to traditional classroom methods have had to shift rapidly to tech-led holistic solutions, which were earlier part of the long-term plan. Having said that, for teachers and students to adapt successfully to the technological solutions that are available right now, we need to address some challenges. 

Dearth of digital content for online teaching

In the current situation, school leaders and teachers have come across many difficulties, especially when it comes to sourcing ready-to-use digital content and compatible digital tools for online classes. Content that fits with the curriculum, but can be easily adapted to online teaching, is not readily available and certainly not around the time schools first closed. Developing informative content that is easy to access, disseminate and evaluate is the need of the hour.  

During this period, it was obvious that schools that were already embracing technological solutions were better prepared for the new reality. Many of the international schools associated with Cambridge International had started developing online resources and using online platforms well before the lockdown.  

These schools, we realized, were better prepared to move learning online and easily adapted the available tech-solutions. One such school is Chettinad Sarvlokaa Education International, a Cambridge International School in Tamil Nadu. The schools have made their online and web-based learning platforms diverse by providing content relevant for different age groups. What is highly commendable here is how even a subject like physical education has not stopped being a part of the students’ daily timetable. There are many other examples of schools doing the same. 

International boards, like Cambridge International where I work, have also been reviewing and developing support for schools during this time. One such example is ‘Resource Plus’, an online resource, which we have made available for free during this time – to all teachers, not just those at Cambridge schools. Resource Plus gives teachers access to high-quality videos, ready-made lesson plans and teaching materials that they can use to help students learn and prepare for their exams. Science teachers have found it especially helpful for teaching science practicals remotely, as they can show videos of experiments that students would ordinarily have done in the classroom. 

Using the crisis as an opportunity, the school and board have found a way to move forward by harnessing the power of digital technology. 

Assessments and evaluating progress

Another challenge for teachers is how to continue to engage students and keep an eye on their progress from afar. For teachers, classroom assessments are integral to assess the effectiveness of the teaching strategies, plan for future teaching-learning activities, keep track of individual learner’s progress and provide useful feedback for improvement. 

Platforms like Kahoot, Hot Potato, edpuzzle and Google Classroom are used extensively by schools like HVB Global Academy in Mumbai to help keep track of students’ performance remotely. For them, these platforms have proved to be significant in assessing the learners’ progress and understanding their learning needs. Tools such as Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Forms are naturally compatible with the Classroom app and enable teachers to ‘flip the classroom’ and help learners develop presentation, language, communication and technical skills.  

Online tools along with the Google Classroom app have also helped in streamlining and automating much of teachers’ administrative work so that they are now better able to assess learners and provide them with better-differentiated support and guidance.  

Interaction and engagement

With remote learning, there are also concerns about social skills development, loneliness, welfare and lack of interaction among students. This has led to schools giving significant importance to maintaining students’ happiness and wellbeing. To this end, schools have offered students online counselling to help them through these trying times. HVB Global Academy, for example, has also introduced online yoga and meditation sessions for students and parents. In addition, schools have also started townhalls with parents to keep the communication channels active and address their concerns.  

Looking to the future 

Looking ahead to a time when schools re-open, it’s much more likely that educational technology will be integrated into the curriculum – especially if teachers have a mixed cohort of students with some still based at home. 

There is no one answer as to how each one of our institutions should react to these changes – but it is important that we think through what is happening and how we harness those changes to best effect for our learners.  

Students feel more confident and ask questions more frequently in an online format, they do not shy away from asking questions behind the anonymity of the screen. Schools are upping their digital learning game to keep the students connected and help them bond beyond screens.  

Teachers too have concluded that mental health needs to be a bigger priority in school. A lot of things are being put under scrutiny, like conventional assessment patterns and the marks-ridden mindset. The rote based learning approach is being questioned. Intensified digital learning is playing a key role in developing a refined approach to education for students.  

However, online learning is still not expected to outshine traditional classroom learning. This experience has highlighted as if we did not know already, that schools are not merely places where children go to get an education. Instead, they are a vital part of the social and emotional development of a child, which cannot be replaced by technological solutions that are available right now.  

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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COVID-19 innovation education sector digital technology

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