Online classes are here to stay as Omicron rages on, kids and parents prepare for a long year
Polished shoes, crisp uniforms, schoolbags and a classroom full of children: after nearly two years of online lessons, many children, parents and teachers were hoping that 2022 would mark the reopening of schools. But at the start of 2022, with the Omicron variant of Covid raging, children are still at home and teachers continue to attend online classes with little or no idea when they might see school again.
It was different at the end of 2021. Then many schools hoped to reopen. For example, Kothari International School in Noida asked parents to complete a survey form in November 2021 to find out their responses to sending children to school.
Rainbow International School, a CBSE board school in Maharashtra’s Thane West, has also started calling students once a week after receiving a no-objection certificate from parents. Similarly, the Air Force School in Agra has started offline courses for students on a voluntary basis and the Delhi Public School (DPS) in the Sundar Nagar area of New Delhi has started. to call students in grades 6-10 on a voluntary basis in November.
Now all of these schools have returned to full online course mode, once again closing their doors to students as Covid cases surge in the country.
As online classes continue, kids, parents, and teachers have faced the same for the past two years. Some are good, some bad, and some incredibly difficult, depending on who you ask.
Although there is a lot of shouting about the shortcomings of online learning and virtual classrooms, the glass is not half empty. By virtue of what they are, online courses bring an element of interactivity and fun to lessons.
Manpreet Kaur, a teacher at Air Force School Agra, believes that online courses provide a smart classroom experience for teachers and students. Classes have become more interactive now.
“If I were to teach photosynthesis in a physics class, chances are I’d just open the textbook, explain the process, and that would be it. In online courses, in addition to text, I can also show YouTube videos or images in between to make the concept more interactive and less boring,” says Manpreet.
She also believes the pandemic has forced reluctant schools and teachers to embrace new technologies and improve the way they teach.
“It’s very encouraging to see middle-aged and older teachers who have never used gadgets or software before confidently teaching lessons on GMeet,” she says.
The Kaur school organized a training session for teachers to help them learn about Google Meet and its features. His favorite is GMeet’s live captioning feature.
From the teacher’s point of view, online courses have another advantage in that they bring children and parents closer together. This, according to some teachers, makes their job easier.
Shuchi Malhotra, a teacher at Maharaja Agrasen Model School in Delhi, says e-learning has proven to be a revelation for parents. Earlier, she says, when teachers pointed out areas of concern for a student, parents refused to believe it. “As there is now more involvement of parents, they themselves can see where their children are lagging and work on them personally,” she says.
Tanya Chakraborthy, a teacher at Kidzee, also thinks online lessons help by forcing parents to take note of class work. Although, oddly, she says it helps parents. “In Patna, where I teach, we have children of all kinds in our classes. There are children whose parents have never been to school before or who have very limited information on any subject. They come to see us and ask us if what they understood from the class is correct or not so that they can help their children with their homework. It shows that they too are learning from it,” says Tanya.
Parents now appreciate being more involved in their children’s education.
Heena Goel, whose daughter studies at Somerville School of Greater Noida, says online lessons give her real-time feedback on what her daughter is learning from her classes. “Online lessons have helped me understand what my daughter is learning or how much my daughter is learning in her class. If there is something she doesn’t understand, I make sure to explain it to her immediately after class. “, she says.
Rashid Ahmed, father of a child who attends DPS, says the online classes have also improved communication between parents, children and teachers. “While things were mostly between a child and the teacher before, with online lessons you now have a daily report on your child’s performance and behavior in class,” he says.
Even though teachers and parents see the glass as half full, kids aren’t so enthusiastic about online lessons. They miss the buzz of school. Advika Garg, who was admitted to kindergarten during the pandemic, says she has only seen the school in YouTube videos and pictures so far. “I want to see my new school and meet my classmates once,” she said.
Aditya, a Class 12 student at DPS Dwarka, feels the same way. “Homeschooling is boring and there are also a lot of distractions. I miss my class and my friends,” he says.
Shuchi Malhotra, a teacher, agrees. She says that for all the goodness of online classes, she still misses her personal interaction and connection with students. “Online teaching is just teaching, but a teacher’s job is more than that. When we meet a child in person, we get to know him better. We can work on their gray areas better and help with personality development,” she says.
With images of over 40 students crammed into the small screen of a laptop or tablet, it becomes difficult to focus on each individual child.
Manpreet Kaur believes that online courses can be a barrier for introverted or less active students. “In a physical class, I can ask a student to stand up and start reading to increase their engagement,” she says.
Amber Banerjee, who has retired as director of DPS Agra, also seems worried when talking about online courses. “It harms the learning process of children, especially those in middle school. It’s hard and fun for them. But it’s a sad reality and unfortunately we have to live with it,” he says.
Alok Jha, a father, says online classes are failing to keep his child focused. “There are too many distractions. You cannot force your child to stare at the screen for a long time. They eventually find ways to escape. My daughter keeps covering her camera between classes,” he says.
Dr Sakshi Gupta, a children’s mental health expert in Ghaziabad, sees parents coming to see her because they are worried about their children’s attention span during online lessons. Recently, the father of a 17-year-old girl came to see her mentioning the word ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Sakshi’s interaction with the boy revealed that he used to mark his presence and then play games on his tablet.
“I don’t blame parents, but instead of just worrying about how much screen time their child is spending, it’s always best to personally engage with them and check on them regularly,” Sakshi says.
One of the main challenges of online courses has been the lack of infrastructure in general and the skills of teachers to deal with it. Two years after the term “online course” became a household name, the same challenges remain.
The main hurdle that teachers faced when online classes started in India was learning how to use modern technological tools. “It was tough at first. I’m a 50-year-old Hindi teacher and I’ve been teaching for 25 years. But I didn’t know anything about these technological tools,” says Urmila Chaudhary, a teacher at DAV public school. I still make mistakes sometimes like forgetting to share the screen or things like that but as I always tell my students, this is the time when we teachers also learn from our students.”
Then there are the general infrastructure issues. Internet connections are slow. There are power cuts, affecting different localities where students are at different times.
“We took our time learning how to deal with technology tools, but problems like power cuts or poor internet connection can happen at any time,” says Shuchi.
Shuchi also talks about an incident where a student, aged between 5 and 7, accidentally shared an objectionable video in a school’s WhatsApp group. “We spoke to the parents, and they said the phone was in the child’s hand, and he accidentally shared the clip in the group. They were sorry about that, but incidents like these keep happening. and as administrators of these newsgroups, it’s hard to keep the discussions filtered and clean,” she says.