The world as we know it changed in the blink of an eyelid. Overnight, schools closed, (most) students were liberated from schools (but now confined at homes), and parents had to grapple with keeping children productive at home. In all the stress of lockdowns, handwashing and tracking the spread of the virus around the globe, no one paid heed to the stress suddenly piling on to that oft-neglected group – teachers. With the reality of schools remaining physically closed for an extended duration came the reality of online teaching. Suddenly, it was no longer a buzzword or a fancy edtech term. Now everyone has to do it. The problem is – few know how.
While there has been numerous (and humourous) data reported on the recipes searched for the most on Google during lockdown and what people bought online the most during this time, there has undoubtedly also been a huge surge in Google for phrases such as “how to teach online”, “best online teaching platforms”, “online teaching tools”, and “online teaching techniques”. It would be eye-opening to know this data.
So, what’s the situation on the ground?
Teachers who are intimidated by technology have no option now but to take the bull by its horns. For many teachers who are proficient at planning and teaching in the traditional classroom, planning the same for an online setting will take some re-learning, no pun intended.
Finding the right online teaching platform that suits their requirements is just the first step for the teaching community. Learning how to use the various features correctly is important. But using a platform and its features to teach effectively and ensure that all students are indeed learning is paramount. For in this already delicate situation, anything going awry in the “classroom” would be akin to disaster.
But more than anything, online classrooms have brought up the issues of classroom management. If teachers thought they had enough trouble keeping their classrooms in order earlier, that was nothing compared to the woes of remote classrooms. It is very sad to hear long-term educators asking for help with managing students online. How can I maintain discipline? How do I ensure students don’t tamper with my presentation? How can I prevent students from disrupting the class? Can students disrupt my class? How?
And it’s not only teachers of higher grades who are swimming in questions and concerns. Those who teach the youngest students, the pre-primary and primary grades are worried, too. How can I keep the children attentive? What length of class is appropriate for them? They’re so young, will online teaching even be effective for them? How can I ensure effectiveness?
For schools, training teachers to (quickly) become adept at teaching online is a herculean task. Ensuring teachers are equipped with the right hardware and good internet connectivity is another. Helping teachers transition to virtual classrooms and essentially, a brand-new way of doing things has virtually become a reality. No pun intended, again.
Teachers are crying out for help. Many want to learn the right online teaching techniques and strategies to keep their students engaged and learning online. Many want to know which platform to use. Is it Zoom? But aren’t there privacy issues? What about Google Classrooms? Is that better than Zoom because it is an LMS? What’s an LMS?? What about Microsoft Teams? Others just want to know how to keep uninvited students, and trouble, out of their online classrooms. This is merely the beginning. Planning and conducting online assessments and evaluating students online is another critical area that has to be given serious thought by schools.