It has been six months since we confined to our homes due to the pandemic outbreak. Students are one of the victims of this pandemic where they forced to continue their studies on an online platform. On the other hand, educational institutes which were not ready and fully equipped to deal with this challenge bombarded the teachers to start planning for the virtual lessons. Resulting in both educators and students embarked upon an ‘error and trial’ based journey where both the riders were soon faced many technological and infrastructural hurdles.
First of all, teaching in Zoom or Meet is a whole different game than the four-walled classroom teaching. Students sometimes get confused and need details elaborations of the class tasks and activities. According to 3plearning, following are some of the challenges that both teacher and students faced in a virtual platform.
- Isolation: Learning from home can be lonely. Without the buzz of the classroom setting and the company of their peers, it’s no surprise that some students can begin to feel a strong sense of isolation that slowly erodes their desire to learn.
- No Motivation: As hard as distance teaching might be for us, it’s likely even harder for our students. They’ve gone from classrooms explicitly designed to support learning, to bedrooms and kitchen tables where distractions are plentiful, and expert support isn’t always on hand. It’s no surprise that more than a few will be tempted to opt-out.
- Technical Difficulties: In countries like Pakistan, not every home will always have a reliable internet connection or readily available device for students to use. Making it more stressful to student to cope with the lesson’s pace and even for the teachers who worried about their student’s loss.
- Time Management: When you can no longer just stand in front of your class and teach, you have to rely on resources to do the job for you. And those take time to create. Even your verbal instructions will have to be translated into crystal clear written documents that all students can access and understand.
- Setting and forgetting online learning activities: Students aren’t the only ones who might feel diminished accountability in a distance education setting. It can be a struggle for teachers too. Stripped of the face time and classroom environments that inform so much of our job, it can be easy to revert to ‘set and forget’ mode, assigning some work online and just hoping for the best.
The above five issues are common among virtual classes which makes students and teacher frustrated enough that sometimes they even quit their sessions. However, some ways can minimize the level of frustration in dealing with technology.
- Online Discussion Boards: These make it easy for all students to get involved even the ones who tremble at the thought of raising a hand during class discussion. Jumpstart things with an open-ended prompt and let students post as much as they like without the requirement for a specific type of response.
- Cloud Documents: Cloud documents (e.g. Google Docs or Microsoft OneDrive) allow students to work on the same item at once from their individual devices. It’s quicker and more organized than a shared piece of paper and gives every student a voice. Make sure, no more than 3–5 students working on the same document, and have them seated next to each other. This keeps students accountable and stops that student (you know the one) from anonymously typing in those comments.
- Use Breakout Rooms: Some LMSs and live communication tools (e.g. Zoom) allow you to split students into virtual groups where they work together via video. Even you can create breakout rooms over Meet as well. It’s a distraction-free alternative to having multiple groups chatting away in the same room, and it lets home learners stay connected.
Pro Tip: There are tons of tutorials over YouTube on how to set up the breakout rooms over Google Meet. If your school, like mine, using Google Meet as a G-suit package, you may tryout of these tutorials. I used it multiples times and its work like a charm.
- Let Students to Connect with The World Outside the Classroom Through Technology: When will we ever use this? What’s the point? Why does it matter? If you can answer these questions by connecting learning with the mythical ‘real world’, you’ll get engagement, and your students will get a purpose.
Connect your students with real people, places, and problems beyond the four walls of the classroom. For example;
- Students could do WebQuests where they can be tasked with finding solutions to a real problem (e.g. develop a plan to save an endangered animal)
- Student can correspond with students from another school.
- Student can connect with native speakers of a studied language or publish completed assignments on a website or a blog for a real audience.
- Use Social Media: Our students are captivated by the real relationships, communities, connections, and identities they can form on social media. And as teachers, we should be, too because they’re rich in learning opportunities.
Here are some ways you might use social media for learning.
- Have students crowdsource opinions on social media via a survey or public post.
- Have students share work to receive feedback from people outside the class.
- Students could create a post, ad, or group as the final product in a project.
- Students could organize an event (e.g. a fundraiser).
- Students could create groups or communities to raise awareness of issues or ideas.
- (For upper school) students could experiment with what it takes to ‘go viral’ and find out something about their peers and the public in the process.
- Mitigate the Technical Barriers with Minimal Resources: As I mentioned above, not every home in Pakistan has a Hi-end PC or Wi-Fi connectivity. Some families are poor enough that they only meet their ends sufficient out of their income. The most common and affordable way to connect in Pakistan is 4G via smartphone. Try to plan your lesson that can be taught over a smartphone as well. Try to ease out the activities and worksheet that doesn’t need high-end internet connectivity or cellphones. Use simplified platforms like docs and slides with minimal use of graphics. In this way, the technical barriers can be mitigated, and underprivileged students can also become part of the virtual platforms.
As we all teachers are anticipating and getting ready for the new term to begin, its time first to freshen up our pedagogies and activities. Try to learn new methods, other than conventional methods, to engage our students with the lesson and minimize the frustration level for both of us during the class sessions.
Good Luck 😊